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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 of 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.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $11–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

Best educational baby books

Baby Loves Gravity!

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $$
  • Age: 0+
  • Author: The New York Metropolitan Museum of 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

  • Price: $
  • 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 to 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

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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 make 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…

  • Price: $
  • 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!

  • Price: $
  • 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.

While this book discusses replacing batteries, batteries and other small pieces should be kept out of reach from your little ones as they can be a choking hazard.

¡Fiesta!

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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.

Red Racer Presents ABCs of Racing My First Guide to Formula 1 Racing

  • Price: $$
  • Age: 2–6 years
  • Author: Andy Amendola
  • Publish date: 2022

Sports fans will rejoice at this fun twist on the ABCs. While most alphabet books focus on tried and true classics like “A is for apple,” this cute version ups the ante by introducing concepts like STEM early with parallels such as “A is for aerodynamics.” Better still, this book is available in both English and Spanish. Both parents and children will love the vivid full-color illustrations and racing fans, in particular, will appreciate this ode to a popular sporting tradition.

Best historical baby books

Maya: My First Maya Angelou

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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

The Story of Rap

  • Price: $
  • Age: 0–3 years
  • Author: Editors of Caterpillar Books
  • Publish date: 2019

Whether you prefer your rap of the vintage NWA form or you’re here for Kendrick Lamar telling us that we’re gon’ be alright, if you’re a serious rap fan you’ve probably been introducing your baby to the greatest hits since they were still in the bump. “The Story of Rap” is a cute, kid-friendly intro to the history of rap music from the days of Grand Master Flash until now. You’ll recognize icons from Eminem and Jay Z to upstarting newcomers like Cardi B illustrated throughout the pages.

Best interactive baby books

I Love You All Day Long

  • Price: $$$
  • 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.

Although the play pieces are attached to the book by a string, it’s important to assure that they’re securely attached to prevent a choking risk.

If I Were a Monkey

  • Price: $$
  • 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

  • Price: $$
  • 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

  • Price: $$
  • 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.

Visiting – Visitando La Granja

  • Price: $$
  • Age: 1 year+
  • Author: Binibi
  • Publish date: 2021

Bilingual and interactive can go hand in hand — as seen with this cute little audible board book, “Visiting – Visitando La Granja.” Little ones will get to learn how to say popular farm animal names in both English and Spanish. Meanwhile, they can also push the button on each page to hear one of the cute farm animal sounds. Choose from the cow, horse, pigs, chicks, or sheep. There are even songs too. Meanwhile, the page buttons encourage fine motor skill development.

Who Said Moo?

  • Price: $
  • Age: 0–2 years
  • Author: Yi-Hsuan Wu
  • Publish date: 2020

Get your tiny tot engaged in the story by encouraging them to reenact their favorite farm animal’s sounds. With each page, children will not only recognize animals but can feel different textures and play along with the story as they try to figure out which animal should be matched with which sound. And younger babies will love the last page which features a kid-safe mirror so they can practice their own sounds.

Best baby books for diversity

Baby Dance

  • Price: $
  • 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

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

Although this is one of the few nonboard books on 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.

Best classic baby books

Richard Scarry’s Trucks

  • Price: $
  • 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!

  • Price: $$$
  • 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.”

Are You My Mother?

  • Price: $
  • 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.

The Giving Tree

  • Price: $
  • Age: 3–8 years
  • Author: Shel Silverstein
  • Publish date: 1964

An oldie but goodie, “The Giving Tree” teaches us about unconditional love as an anthropomorphic tree does her best to give the apple of her eye (pun intended) everything he needs to be happy. Meanwhile, we also learn about enduring friendships as the little boy continues to return to his beloved tree at every significant life stage. While technically a book for older tots, some younger toddlers might be enthralled by the simple language and vivid illustrations.

Goodnight Moon

  • Price: $$
  • 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.

Best for bedtime stories

Little Blue Truck

  • Price: $
  • 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.

Guess How Much I Love You

  • Price: $$
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $$
  • 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.

Little Rabbit Waits for the Moon

  • Price: $$
  • Age: 2–6 years
  • Author: Beth Shoshan, Stephanie Peel
  • Publish date: 2011

Bedtime is a special time, but little rabbit is concerned that the moon won’t watch over him while he snoozes. So, he goes looking for the moon and comes across a variety of natural wonders that try to help him on his quest. Eventually, he realizes that he might never find the moon but never gives up hope. And in the end, the moon finds him sleeping in a meadow. This is the perfect relaxing tale to help little ones drift off to dreamland.

Best books for babies under 6 months

Look, Look!

  • Price: $
  • 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

  • Price: $
  • 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.

Best books that teach lessons

Don’t Touch My Hair

  • Price: $
  • Age: 2–6 years
  • Author: Sharee Miller
  • Publish date: 2019

Personal autonomy and micro-aggressions might seem like a difficult topic to tackle when you’re talking about toddlers and preschoolers. But “Don’t Touch My Hair” manages to address both topics without making it awkward — and while reinforcing the idea that even small children have the right to decide what happens to their bodies. While this book addresses society’s obsession with Black hair, it also translates to emboldening children of all ethnicities and races by letting them know that they have the right to refuse to be touched.

Off to School

  • Price: $
  • Age: 3–7 years
  • Author: Sesame Workshop
  • Publish date: 2015

Starting school can be hard — especially for children that weren’t enrolled in day care as babies. “Off to School” follows our favorite lovable monster, Elmo, as he prepares for and experiences his first day of school. He teaches your children simple ways to manage first-day jitters, as well as highlights how fun school can be — making it a must-read for all pre-school parents.

Never Let a Unicorn Scribble

  • Price: $
  • Age: 3–6 years
  • Author: Diane Alber
  • Publish date: 2019

Creativity and imagination go hand in hand. And this fun book about a little girl, her crayons, and her favorite unicorn (who turns out to be a stuffed animal!) will encourage your children to tap into their artistic side. When coloring time goes awry, the little girl realizes that scribbling isn’t actually a bad thing and can in fact spark joy and wonder, while leading to beautiful masterpieces.

Who Done It?

  • Price: $$
  • Age: 2–4 years
  • Author: Olivier Tallec
  • Publish date: 2015

Get your child interested in asking questions and using deductive reasoning to figure out the answers. In this full-color illustrated book, children will be asked simple questions that require them to look at the pictures and figure out the answer. For example, “who didn’t get enough sleep?” or “who forgot their swimsuit?” — all clearly answerable if you pay attention to the accompanying pictures. This is a fun little guessing game book that children will love to read with their parents.

Most experts agree that reading to your children, and starting early, is the most important takeaway regarding baby books. But if you’re trying to keep your little ones engaged, then picking age-appropriate books is going to be an important aspect. But there are still other factors that you might want to prioritize as you shop for books.

Durability

In news that surprises no one, babies, toddlers, and even some preschoolers are rough on items. So, picking paperback or hardback books with paper-thin pages might not be wise in the beginning. Whether you’re concerned about them ripping pages or drooling all over them, opting for board books — or even bath-safe books in the beginning — will ensure that your literary investment lasts more than a week or 2.

Word count

Obviously, the younger your child, the shorter the attention span. So, you’ll usually find that books geared toward infants tend to have minimal words on the page and instead favor bolder illustrations that fill the space. But as your child gets older, opting for books with a bit more plot can help to keep them engaged.

Purpose

The basic purpose is reading, we know. But think about what you’re trying to do with the book. Are you trying to teach another language? If so, then you want a book that brings that language to life and clearly illustrates proper pronunciation. Meanwhile, if you’re tackling more complex topics such as a famous person’s biography, or even the basics of physics, you’ll want a book that can take difficult subject matter and make it digestible for younger minds to absorb.

Age appropriateness

In theory you could read J.R.R. Tolkien to a baby if you wanted to since ultimately early reading is about bonding with your baby. But whether they’ll understand much of what’s happening is another story.

We recommend looking for books that are age-appropriate when shopping. Whether online or in-store, you’ll find that most booksellers will list a recommended age range for each book. But keep in mind that this is a general guide and isn’t a hard requirement. For example, you’ll find books in our recommendations that cover a wider age range. And depending on your child’s ability to focus, a book that’s technically “too advanced” for them might actually be just right.

Illustrations

We’re all visual creatures — regardless of age. But for babies and younger toddlers especially who might not be ready to recognize simple words, visuals matter.

Conventional wisdom recommends focusing on books with black and white illustrations for very young babies because of their limited vision skills. But that doesn’t mean you have to forego “Goodnight Moon” or “Green Eggs and Ham” just because color recognition hasn’t kicked in yet. Meanwhile, vibrant and large illustrations — along with a good immersive reading voice — can go a long way toward making reading time an engaging ritual in your household for older tots.

When should you start reading books to a baby?

The short answer is it’s never too soon to start. In reality, you could start reading to your baby while you’re still carrying them. In the beginning, the focus is on bonding with your baby. But experts agree that starting around 4 months of age will ensure that an interest in reading will continue — as well as create a ritual of reading together.

Keep in mind that babies learn to talk by listening to people around them. So, the earlier you start talking around and to them, the better!

How do you clean baby books?

This is going to depend on the type of book you have. Paperback books will be the hardest to clean because of their inherently delicate nature. Getting the pages wet can cause permanent damage so proceed with caution.

With hardback books, you can wipe down the covers with a damp cloth and then immediately follow with a dry cloth or paper towel to prevent moisture damage.

The easiest books to clean are board books. Their durable design allows them to withstand moisture far better than the other book styles. While you shouldn’t immerse them in water, you can wipe the pages clean with a damp cloth soaked in cleaning solution — and follow with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture.

How should you organize baby books?

Organizing baby books comes down to preferences in your household. Some people prefer to organize by ages and stages (i.e. newborn, 6 months to 2 years, etc.) while others might prefer to organize like a library by subject matter and author name. Still, others like to organize by color.

Another option is to organize the more popular titles together — the go-to books that seem to capture your child’s attention the most. Or, you can organize bedtime stories in your child’s nursery whereas other stories can be kept in a playroom or the living room. As a reminder, bookshelves should always be securely anchored to the wall to prevent falls.

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.