From Bedtime Stories to Bilingual Tales: Our Best Baby Book Picks
There’s something inherently precious about reading to children — especially when they’re babies. Watching their eyes intently study each page as you read is a heartwarming experience, and it feels good to know you’re encouraging a present — and future — love of books.
But there are a lot of choices out there. So, if this is your first time at the parenting rodeo or you’re shopping for a friend or relative who’s a new parent, it can be intimidating as you try to choose the right books — ones that are not just engaging but also age-appropriate.
Benefits of starting the reading habit early
Even though it might seem like very young babies aren’t paying attention when you read to them, regularly reading to children from a young age has a wide range of benefits. These go beyond just bonding (which is valuable in and of itself, of course).
Babies learn by mimicking those around them. So, exposing them to words — especially when they’re hearing them from a trusted source like a parent or caregiver — can help them develop the skills they need to talk. By the time a baby reaches the age 1, they’ve learned all the sounds needed to speak their native language.
Research has shown that children who are regularly read to tend to know more words than children who aren’t. And consistently reading encourages a child to learn to read within the suggested developmental milestone time frame. So your little baby Einstein will head to school set up for success!
Babies who are read to learn about social cues as you use different emotions and expressive sounds to narrate a story. And this means that they’ll be better able to understand how to interact with others, as well as support their emotional development.
How we chose the books on this list
Every family will have their own needs that should be met by the books they bring into their home. However, we did poll a number of our Healthline staff and families to create a roundup of books that focus on education, diversity, language, age appropriateness, and of course, are fun to read for caregivers and baby!
You’ll note that the majority of the books we selected are board books. We probably don’t have to tell you — children can be rough with items. Sturdier books give little ones the freedom to easily flip through the pages whenever they like and for years to come.
Also, our age recommendations are only suggestions. Many books earmarked as ideal for older babies or toddlers may still be engaging for the younger set. Keep in mind, too, that you can easily find alternate language editions for many of the classic books on our list.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorites.
Best educational baby books
Baby Loves Gravity!
Age: 1–4 years
Author: Ruth Spiro
Publish date: 2018
“Baby Loves Gravity!” is an installment in the Baby Loves Science series. This is an adorable and easy-to-read board book with simple sentences that break down the complex scientific concept of gravity. Little ones will love the brightly colored pages and caregivers will enjoy narrating the adorable sound effects.
Rocket Science for Babies
Age: 1–4 years
Author: Chris Ferrie
Publish date: 2017
It’s never too early to encourage STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) learning with your little one. “Rocket Science for Babies” is part of the Baby University board book series — and this installment tackles aerospace engineering. For maximum effect, read this book with enthusiasm to help your baby understand the ups and downs (pun intended!) of rocket science.
My First ABC — The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Author: The New York Museum of Metropolitan Art
Publish date: 2002
Help baby learn their ABCs by associating each letter with a unique picture that just so happens to be an iconic work of art. The detailed images in this board book help to encourage a love of reading — don’t be surprised if your little one enjoys flipping through the pages even when you’re not reading to them!
Age: 0–2 years
Author: William Low
Publish date: 2015
Who doesn’t love animals? With this adorable and simplistic board book, your tot will get one of their first introductions into wildlife and learn which animals are active during the day versus at night. Both you and your little one will love the realistic full-color illustrations, and the simple one- or two-word text on each page will keep even young babies engaged.
Little Quack Loves Colors
Age: 1–4 years
Author: Lauren Thompson
Publish date: 2009
Word and color association — in addition to the adorable and colorful illustrations — are some of the biggest draws for this board book. Your toddler will quickly learn how to tell colors apart as the actual name of each color is written in that shade. Plus, the simple sentences will help to engage older babies.
Best bilingual baby books
La oruga muy hambrienta / The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Age: 1–4 years
Author: Eric Carle
Publish date: 2011
While technically far older than this publishing date, this lovable classic has been turned into a helpful bilingual board book that teaches your child English and Spanish. The colorful drawings and detailed descriptions help children understand numbers and common fruits they’ll encounter regularly. And the dual languages on each page makes it easy for caregivers to read this fan favorite to your little one — whether they speak English or Spanish.