Parenting In Focus: Choosing the best books for babies, toddlers

I am a strong believer in the importance of teaching your child to enjoy books. Books are one of the best gifts you can give to your baby or for any baby who is important to you.

Here are some hints on what to look for when you are picking out books:

For babies (0-12 months

• Books with simple, large pictures or designs with bright colors; most of these books are books to talk with your baby about what is on the page

• Stiff cardboard, “chunky” books or fold-out books that can be propped up in the baby’s crib

• Cloth and soft vinyl books with simple pictures of people or familiar objects that can go in the bath or be washed.

• Board books with photos of other babies

• Small plastic photo albums of family and friends

For young toddlers (12-24 months)

• Sturdy board books that they can carry with them

• Books with photos of children doing familiar things like sleeping or playing

• Good night books for bedtime

• Books about saying good-bye and hello

• Gooks with only a few words on each page

• Books with simple rhymes

• Touch and feel books

• Animal books of all sizes and shapes

For older toddlers (24-36 months)

• Books that tell simple stories

• Simple rhyming books that a child can memorize parts or lines

• Bedtime books

• Books about counting, the alphabet, shapes or sizes

• Animal books, vehicle books, and books about playtime

• Pop-up books with humorous pictures and words; help your little one learn to have fun reading

For preschoolers (3-5 years)

• Books about children that look and live like them as well as about children living very different lives

• Books that show children of different races and ages

• Counting books or books about things like size or time

• Simple science books about how things work like garbage trucks or how things grow like flowers

• Books about things in which they have a special interest such as trains, animals or cooking

• Books about making friends. Books about dealing with the challenges of friendships, making up after an argument, dealing with a bossy friend, etc.

• Books about going to school or to the doctor

• Books about having brothers or sisters

• Books with simple text that the child can learn specific words

Let your child pick a book for you to read together even if it is the same book for several nights. Enjoy reading with your child or with your little friend.

You are teaching this little one to love to read.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to or 360-681-2250.