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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.

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).

Language development

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.

Accelerated learning

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!

Social cues

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.

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.

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

  • Age: 0+
  • 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!

Daytime Nighttime

  • 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.

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.

Quiero a mi papa porque… / I Love My Daddy Because…

  • Age: 1–4 years
  • Author: Laurel Porter-Gaylord
  • Publish date: 2004

This cute board book features adorable baby animals with their dads. It focuses on daily activities, making it relatable to older babies and toddlers as they notice similarities between the animals’ lives and their own. Best of all, the animals featured in the book are clearly labeled in English and Spanish to help expand your child’s vocabulary.

Fix It! / ¡A reparar!

  • Age: 1–4 years
  • Author: Georgie Birkett
  • Publish date: 2013

Broken toys are a part of growing up, but “¡A reparar!/Fix It!” is part of the Helping Hands book series and teaches little ones to understand the steps necessary to fix broken toys or replace batteries. This colorful paperback features simple sentences in both English and Spanish and makes it easy to learn key Spanish vocabulary words.

¡Fiesta!

  • Age: 6 months+
  • Author: Ginger Foglesong Guy
  • Publish date: 2007

Getting ready for a party has never been so easy! In this bilingual counting book, you and your little ones will follow a group of children as they travel through town picking up everything they need for an upcoming party. In addition to learning how to count, this easy to follow story also helps build your child’s Spanish language vocabulary.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear / El ratoncito, la fresa roja y madura, y el fran oso hambriento

  • Age: 6 months+
  • Author: Don and Audrey Wood
  • Publish date: 1997

This adorable book — available as a bilingual English/Spanish board book and also as a Spanish paperback and hardback book — is a fan favorite for good reason. Your little ones will listen excitedly as you animate the adventures of a daring mouse who must hide their strawberry bounty from a hungry bear. Everyone will love the full-color illustrations and breathe a sigh of relief as the mouse — and you — get to enjoy the sweet rewards.

Maya: My First Maya Angelou

  • Age: 18 months+
  • Author: Lisbeth Kaiser
  • Publish date: 2018

Introducing young children to historical figures can be difficult. The Little People, Big Dreams story series offers two options — hardback and board books — for every historical figure. The board books are perfect for offering simple stories that introduce your little one to pivotal people like the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, along with their diverse backgrounds and how they shaped our pop culture and shared history.

Ali: My First Muhammad Ali

  • Age: 18 months+
  • Author: Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
  • Publish date: 2020

How do you tackle complex concepts like a peaceful protest as well as the flamboyant personalities of some of society’s most influential and prolific figures? Little People, Big Dreams’ Muhammad Ali board book manages to seamlessly tackle his transition from Cassius Clay to Ali, as well as how he continued to inspire those around him even after his retirement from boxing.

The Life of / La vida de Selena

  • Age: 1–4 years
  • Author: Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein
  • Publish date: 2018

Selena Quintanilla is one of the most recognizable Latina music artists of our time. Teach your little one about the Queen of Tejano with this simplified bilingual board book from Lil’ Libros. This book is adorably illustrated in full color and highlights Selena’s lasting impact on her industry and fans, and is easy for any caretaker to read to your little one.

I Love You All Day Long

  • Age: 6 months+
  • Author: Ana Martín-Larrañaga (illustrator)
  • Publish date: 2012

Babies are tactile, which makes “I Love You All Day Long” the perfect book for them. The full-color pages are made even better by the play pieces that can be slipped into the pocket on each page. Your only challenge will be figuring out which baby play piece best matches the scenes on each page.

If I Were a Monkey

  • Age: 0–5 years
  • Author: Anne Wilkinson

Babies love to play, and these Jellycat series board books are the perfect solution. Your little one will love touching the various textures on every colorful page as they learn about the anatomy of a loveable monkey.

You Are My Work of Art

  • Age: 2–5 years
  • Author: Sue DiCicco
  • Publish date: 2011

Children need to know what makes them special, and this loveable tale helps them to learn that being unique is perfectly okay. They’ll love the interactive and colorful pages that encourage them to open flaps and you’ll appreciate that they’re being exposed to iconic artwork like “Starry Night” and “Great Wave Off of Kanagawa.”

Harold and the Purple Crayon

  • Age: 1 year+
  • Author: Crockett Johnson
  • Publish date: 2015

We all know that children have very creative imaginations — even at a young age. “Harold and the Purple Crayon” follows one small tyke as he uses an oversized purple crayon to create amazing backdrops that turn into exciting adventures. While the artwork in this book isn’t as colorful as some others on our list, the engaging plot will help to draw in young readers.

Baby Dance

  • Age: 0–2 years
  • Author: Ann Taylor
  • Publish date: 1998

Small babies will love the rhythmic nature of this adorable book that highlights a scenario that many parents can relate to — a baby’s distress that a parent is sleeping while they’re awake. The colorful illustrations complement the vintage lyrics from the 19th-century poet Ann Taylor. Parents will also love that this book centers on the relationship between a father and his daughter.

Mindful Day

  • Age: 2–5 years
  • Author: Deborah Hopkinson
  • Publish date: 2020

Although this is one of the few non-board books in our list, we think the simplistic yet important messaging of being mindful and learning to enjoy the moment are important lessons that can’t be taught too early in life. The full-color illustrations and calming text will help baby and parents enjoy those final peaceful moments in the night before they drift off to sleep.

Richard Scarry’s Trucks

  • Age: 0–2 years
  • Author: Richard Scarry
  • Publish date: 2015

Parents who grew up immersed in the unique world of Richard Scarry will enjoy this fun trip down memory lane. Trucks is a board book that’s perfect for younger babies with short attention spans thanks to the simplistic text and colorful illustrations.

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket!

  • Age: 0–4 years
  • Author: Dr. Seuss
  • Publish date: 1996

While this is an abridged version of the full hardback book, “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket” is a fun rhyming book that introduces your little one to wordplay and word associations. The colorful illustrations will bring delight to both you and your child as well as encourage a love of reading.

Dr. Seuss favorites

Countless Dr. Seuss books are ideal for babies, but in our offices, some other fan-favorite board book editions include “Hop on Pop” and “My Many Colored Days.”

Healthline

Are You My Mother?

  • Age: 1–5 years
  • Author: P.D. Eastman
  • Publish date: 1998

Help small children learn to distinguish between different objects and animals with this hilariously fun classic — in board book form! Little tykes will love the expressive baby bird as he tries to find his mother. A bonus is that this book is also available in a Spanish board book.

Goodnight Moon

  • Age: 0–5 years
  • Author: Margaret Wise Brown
  • Publish date: 2007

This classic tale is now available in board book form to help new parents create bedtime routines with their little bundles of joy. The full-color illustrations on every page will delight children as they listen to a sleepy little bunny says goodnight to all the familiar objects in the room. And parents will love reliving a bit of nostalgia with their child as they build new memories.

Little Blue Truck

  • Age: 0–3 years
  • Author: Alice Schertle
  • Publish date: 2015

While this is one of the longer board books in terms of actual words per page, even young babies will love listening to their parents mimic the sound of Little Blue Truck (beep, beep, beep) and his farm animal friends. The colorful illustrations engage little ones while you’ll appreciate that the underlying message of helping your neighbors is being reinforced at an early age.

The Littlest Bunny

  • Age: 1–4 years
  • Author: Gillian Shields
  • Publish date: 2015

There’s nothing wrong with being the youngest, and that’s a lesson that can be hard for toddlers to understand. “The Littlest Bunny” proves that the smallest child can still make a big impact on the people who love them. The brightly colored illustrations and the cute story will delight you both.

Guess How Much I Love You

  • Age: 6 months+
  • Author: Sam McBratney
  • Publish date: 2008

In this adorably competitive book, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare try to “one-up” each other in proving how much they love each other. Toddlers in particular will love this cute storyline as Little Nutbrown Hare continues to express how much he loves his father. We think this is a perfect book to send your baby off to dreamland.

On the Night You Were Born

  • Age: 1–4 years
  • Author: Nancy Tillman
  • Publish date: 2010

It can be hard to know if your little one knows how much you love them, but this adorable book can help to put that love into perspective. Your baby will love the colorful illustrations, and you’ll appreciate that the soothing lyricism of the text will help them fall asleep soundly.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

  • Age: 1–6 years
  • Author: Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • Publish date: 2011

Learning to work together is always an important lesson we try to teach our children. “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site” is the perfect bedtime companion for little ones that are obsessed with trucks. While a bit more lengthy than some of our other choices, the engaging illustrations, animated trucks, and rhythmic text will make this a tiny fan favorite.

Look, Look!

  • Age: 0–1 year
  • Author: Peter Linenthal
  • Publish date: 1998

Very young babies will be drawn to this simplistic, black-and-white, high-contrast book. The friendly faces and brief text will help to ease newborns into the experience of being read to. And you’ll enjoy starting new traditions with your latest addition.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Unicorn

  • Age: 0–4 years
  • Author: Jeffrey Burton
  • Publish date: 2019

The classic nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” serves as the background for this adorable and glitter-infused colorful tale of a unicorn that spends her days playing with her woodland friends. Thanks to the source material, you can even sing this simple book to your sweet babe to help them fall asleep.

Regardless of what you choose to read to your baby, the most important takeaway is this: begin routinely reading to your child if you haven’t already started — and know that they’re never too young! Anything can be fun as long as you animate your voice as you narrate.

Set aside consistent reading time (perhaps right before bed) and help put your child on the path of early learning while fostering a love of books.