Reading is a wonderful activity for new parents. It’s calming and relaxing, therefore a perfect fit for the bedtime routine. If you’re holding the infant while reading, the baby can hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth, in addition to being comforted by your soothing voice.
At birth, infants only see black and white—within a week they can see red, orange, yellow and green—and until about eight weeks they are unable to focus on objects beyond eight to ten inches away. So the truth of the matter is, when an infant is under 2 months old, you can read him or her practically anything. At this stage the purpose of reading is more about the bonding activity. If you’ll feel calmer reading Telegraph Avenue than Jamberry then you should read what makes you relax.
Reading actual books matters more when your baby can focus. And reading board books becomes key when babies start reaching for objects. Made with hard cardboard pages, board books are sturdy and can withstand quite a lot of activity. Their smaller size makes them comfortable for little hands, and the thick, rigid pages are easy to turn. Babies and toddlers get used to holding books, being around books, and including books in their daily lives. Board books can be a part of bonding time, playtime and can increase the likelihood of a lifetime of reading. And that’s the whole point! Think of board books as training wheels for, well, the whole world of books.
I have a standard go-to list of books I buy from whenever someone I know is having, or has just had, a baby. Before sharing that list, there are two things I’d like to say about it.
First, some may notice a few glaring omissions: Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to name a few. That’s because these are some of the most popular choices and it’s likely that someone else may have already gifted them.
Second, there’s not a Sandra Boynton board book I wouldn’t buy or recommend. She’s funny, her art is playful and babies and toddlers eat her books up. Literally. There are a lot of Sandra Boynton books on this list and they, for me, are the crème of the crop.
Now, the list.
The following three have bold shapes, in sharp contrast and are best for infants six months and under.
Black on White by Tana Hoban
White on Black by Tana Hoban
It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
These are my favorite Sandra Boynton titles.
And these have short, simple stories with bright, attractive art.
Hug by Jez Alborough
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
I am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
Tumble Bumble by Felecia Bond
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
Time for Bed written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple
Each Peach Pear Plum by Allen Ahlberg, illustrated by Janet Ahlberg
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk
The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Felicia Bond
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood