How to choose books your baby will love
Nurture a love for reading from a young age! Here are some suggestions of books for your baby and toddler, appropriate for each age group.

The joy of sharing books is a gift you can give your child from the time he is born – and even before. Research shows that babies are calmer when mothers recite a nursery rhyme or song they’ve been “reading” to their baby while still in the womb.

And because listening to language lays the foundation for reading, children learn to “read” long before they are able to read the letters on a page. So start reading your baby a bedtime story every night – just five or 10 minutes each day will help him prepare to read on his own.

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn to love reading when they equate it with loving attention and a happy time of sharing. So make reading a fun, loving ritual. The best kind of book to start with is a board book because young children enjoy being able to handle books themselves.

How do I choose?

  • Consider the kinds of books or subjects your child has enjoyed in the past as well as the kinds of characters, situations and topics he might relate to or find interesting
  • Ask friends, relatives and other people you trust what books their children read
  • Remember the books you read as a child and assess whether they may be appropriate for your child
  • Ask your librarian to recommend books
  • Vary your selection and try different genres to hold your child’s interest

What books are appropriate at what age?

Newborn – 6 months

Reading out loud to your newborn gives him time to listen to his favourite sound – your voice. And if you hold him warm and snug in your lap while the two of you share a book, he will associate these happy feelings with reading for the rest of his life. Try these titles:

  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram (Walker Books 1994)

  • Twinkle, Twinkle: An Animal Lover’s Mother Goose by Bobbi Fabian (Ladybird Books)
  • Get Into Bed by Virginia Miller (Walker Books 1993)

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Pan McMillan)           

  • Dr Seuss’s Sleep Book, (Jonathan Ball)

All of these books are sure to satisfy your newborn’s preference for singsong verse. And the last three have an added bonus - they focus on the top concern of all exhausted parents: the wonders of going to sleep.

6 – 12 months

At this age, your baby can recognise quite a few images. You can show him simple illustrations and bold photographs. He will enjoy grabbing books and turning the pages, so you’ll need durable board and cloth books now. Read to him in short bursts (three minutes max at a time) several times throughout the day, to avoid struggling to keep his attention. Try these titles:

  • The Book of Baths by Karen Gray Ruelle (Red Wagon Books)

-Lively little paper cutouts show different animals and people in the bath. Short words describe their actions like “fish flips” or “bug dips”.

  • Textures by Joanne Barkhan (Reader’s Digest)

- Babies learn through touch and the more different textures they’re exposed to, the more brain pathways can develop. The sturdy pages feature illustrations of animals with a hole cut out for the “feel” of each animal, ranging form “spongy” to “bumpy”.

  • Baby Faces (Playskool)

- Even very young babies love looking at photographs of other babies and this book is full of baby faces.

  • The Story of My Feelings by Laurie Berkner (Scholastic)

- Your baby will read and sing along as feelings come to life in this book, which encourages laughing, singing, crying and yelling.

1 – 2 year olds

Between 12 and 18 months, your child will realise that the words he’s heard you read mean something. The more you read aloud to him now, the better his vocabulary will be. Look for books with a wide variety of visuals, lots of repetition, and clearly labelled objects. While reading, pause frequently to ask him questions about the objects he can see and answer his questions. Try these titles:

  • Big Dog and Little Dog Wearing Sweaters by Dav Pilkey (Red Wagon Publishers)

- Big Dog and Little Dog are full of character. Just one sentence per page means that you can move through the text quickly, while pausing to admire the dogs’ sweaters or chat about dogs your baby knows.

  • Max’s New Suit by Rosemary Wells (Dial Books)

- Max, the toddler rabbit with the bossy sister, finds himself in situations your baby can relate to. He doesn’t want his egg, is scared of his birthday present, wants to dress himself and so on.

  • Spot Goes to the Farm by Eric Hill (Gardiners Books)

- Spot is a cartoon dog who drives a tractor. Like many of the others in the Spot series this is a lift-the-flap board book, which can help your child develop memory and motor skills.

Book publicist Jean Pieters recommends:

  • Tiddler by Julian Donaldson (Scholastic)

- Tiddler is a little fish with a big imagination. Every day he is late for school and has another tall tale to tell his teacher.

  • Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz (Scholastic)

- When Timothy puts on his favourite pajamas he becomes a superhero. But when disaster strikes, he discovers that friendship is even stronger than pajamas.

2 – 3 year olds

The plot finally thickens for children between ages 2 and 3 now that they’re old enough to follow story lines. Your toddler may even start demanding books that are a little more complicated. Try these titles:

  • All The People Of The World by Donald Woodburn and Catherine Feek

- This South African book will teach your child all about cultural diversity while entertaining him with rhyme and wonderful drawings of the different people who populate the world.

  • Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins)

- Your child will love the typical Dr Seuss style of writing and be encouraged to admire independence.

  • The Race by Caroline Repchuk, with illustrations by Alison Jay (Chronicle Books)

- With beautiful illustrations on every page this book makes it easy for your adventurous child to understand the lesson that slow and steady wins over fast and furious every time.

Book publicist Jean Pieters recommends:

  • My Mermaid Princess Palace by Nicky Denchfield (Scholastic)

- Dive in and play with the mermaid princesses. Read the story of the Magical Mermaid Ball, then press out your mermaids and play. There are three beautiful pop-up play scenes to explore, lots of moving elements to discover and a hand book of mermaid hints and tips.

  • My Little Star by Janet Bingham (Scholastic)

- Little Fox is walking in the woods with Daddy Fox, playing with leaves from the trees. Little Fox thinks the trees reach right up to the top of the sky, but Daddy Fox explains that the sky reaches much higher! Soon Little Fox discovers that the sky goes on forever, just like love.

IBBY SA (021) 448 7186
Biblionef SA (021) 531 0447
Centre for the Book (021) 423 2669
Exclusive Books (011) 792 2777

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