The benefits of reading to young children, including babies, are clear: improved reading skills and cognitive skills (literacy, language, and numeracy) later in life. But the most compelling reason to read to babies is that it is a joy; an absolute pleasure. It's an opportunity to snuggle and cuddle and relax together. And what could be better than that?
Here are ten books that will delight both you and your baby.
1. Orange Apple Pear Bear—written and illustrated by Emily Gravett This book will remind you of the versatility of the English language. On each page the four words in the title are coupled in clever ways and combined with playful illustrations of – you guessed it – oranges, apples, pears, and bears. It is brilliant.
2. My First ABC—compiled by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A is for art, of course. This beautiful book presents the alphabet using art from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Included are reproductions that show everyday items such as apples, boats, dancers, stars, roses, trees, and vegetables. The companion volumes – 'My First 123' and 'My First Shapes' – are equally beautiful and educational.
'My First ABC' presents the alphabet through great works of art
3. Moomin's Little Book of Numbers—written and illustrated by Tove Jansson If you're not yet acquainted with the magical world of Moomintroll, then you're in for a treat. In this volume we find Moomin doing what he does best – hugging trees, watching butterflies, collecting seashells, gazing at stars – as he counts from one to ten and beyond. The companion volume – 'Moomin's Little Book of Words' – is also entertaining for little ones.
4. Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings—written and illustrated by Matthew Van Fleet This book is a sensory wonderland for young minds. There are colours and shapes and animals and fold-out pages. And, best of all, fuzzy, bumpy, furry, scaly, woolly, scratchy, and sticky textures for little fingers to touch and explore.
'Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings' is a sensory wonderland for young minds
5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?—written by Bill Martin Jr and illustrated by Eric Carle It appears that no list of books for young children is complete without beloved Brown Bear, and I couldn't resist including it here either. It's the first book my daughter 'read' by herself, and I suspect this is the case for many children. The language is simple and repetitive, the rhythm is harmonic, and the illustrations are bright and striking. It's a winner.
6. Hattie and the Fox—written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins Now this is another one I couldn't resist including here, though I did hesitate. I adore many of Mem Fox's books, but this isn't one of them. My daughter, however, has a different view; for a very long time, 'Hattie and the Fox' was a consistent, clear favourite of hers. The language is repetitive and playful, and as the fox sneaks slowly out of the bushes, body parts are introduced – first a nose, then eyes, then ears, and more – until we see it's a fox. It's a fox!
Encourage your baby to explore body parts with 'Hattie and the Fox'
7. Peepo!—written and illustrated by Janet & Allan Ahlberg Here's a little baby, one-two-three, stands in his cot, what does he see? As the first line suggests, this book is about what a baby sees around the home he shares with his parents and siblings. It's been praised as 'the best book ever published for babies', and I tend to agree. The rhythm is divine – boppy and mesmeric at once. It's a joy to read. You might even find yourself reciting the verses in the shower, with no baby in sight.
8. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish—written and illustrated by Dr Suess In typical wacky Dr Suess style, this book explores opposites, colours, and nonsense. It is fabulous fun to read aloud. While you can't go wrong with any book by Dr Suess, this one is my favourite for babies. Mainly because it doesn't need to be read from beginning to end; it lends itself to being picked up and read a verse here, a verse there. The verses are also perfect for reciting in the shower.
Sometimes your baby won't pay attention, but don't be discouraged
9. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy—written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd Chances are there's a dog or a cat in your neighbourhood who looks remarkably like one of the delightful characters in the wonderful Hairy Maclary series. This book is the original Hairy adventure; here we find Hairy and his friends trotting around town until Scarface Claw hustles and bustles them home to bed. The language is fresh, and the repetition and rhyme is engaging. I guarantee it won't be the only Hairy Maclary adventure that you'll read to your baby over the coming years.
10. Goodnight Moon—written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd
And, finally, a charming classic. This is the book to grab whenever your baby (or you) need calming and soothing. It's also the perfect cue for naptimes and bedtimes. You'll find yourself whispering the prose as the little rabbit prepares for bed by saying goodnight to everything in his room. The rhythm is enchanting and the illustrations are gorgeous.
'Goodnight Moon' is a charming classic that will calm and soothe your baby (and you)