Best Books for Newborns
Children are never too young for you to read to them. Even though a newborn baby won’t understand the words, just the sound of your voice alone is very soothing and reassuring. I know a father, a lawyer by profession, who spent an hour each night reading his briefs to his newborn baby. The act of reading to your baby is more important than the book you choose. A warm lap and the rhythmic sound of a familiar voice is what matters most to baby.
Reading to children is more than a great way to entertain them. Reading to your baby is a great way to boost development and early reading skills. Studies show that young children that are read to every day learn to read earlier and with greater ease. Books can become not only one of your baby’s favorite playthings but also a key to language development.
There is no better way for a parent, grandparent or babysitter to get a child settled into bed then to pull out a favorite picture book or story. Then instead of bedtime becoming something for children to dread and fight against, it becomes an enjoyable time when child and caregiver can unwind and be close to each other. Often a young child will drift off to sleep with happy characters and thoughts on their minds to dream about.
What to Look for When Choosing Books for Newborns
Certain visuals and text hold the attention of newborns. The eyesight of newborns is a work in progress. They see best from a distance of approximately one foot. When choosing books for your newborn or infant, select books with bold images. Look for patterns (stripes, polka dots, checkers) and black-and-white illustrations or photos, with few or even no words at all.
For infants, books are not merely for looking at. Babies tend to taste, toss and tear their books. Even sturdy cardboard books may not survive this search-and-destroy stage. Cloth and vinyl make good chewable books. Babies love to turn pages, point to pictures and even taste their books.
Here are my favorite children’s books that newborns respond to best.
White on Black – by Tana Hoban
The first colors your baby sees are black and white. This wordless book of white shapes on a black background is perfect for young babies, who love looking at bold, contrasting colors while their eyes are developing. Black illustrations on a white background provide high contrast for infant’s underdeveloped eyes. Soothingly familiar, silhouetted shapes, a leaf, a key ring, a bib, an elephant, will be recognized by the very young, and through simple pictures, aspiring readers will begin to identify the link between the objects they see and the words their caregivers say. Share the pictures of these familiar objects with your baby. It is never too early to look and talk together.
Look, Look! – by Peter Linenthal
I love this sturdy little board book, full of high-contrast black-and-white cut-paper art perfect for staring at, just the thing for the eyes of the youngest babies. A few words in curving red type on each spread describes the scenes. Baby will love looking at children playing, fish swimming, stars shining, a car racing, a cat scratching, flowers blooming. Look Look! is the ideal first board book for babies just beginning to look and learn. This is a great book to place in front of your baby at tummy time.
Let’s Play – by Leo Lionni
Here’s a perfect book for very young babies. This is such a fun book that encourages exploring the world and enjoying everything the day might have to offer. “What shall we do today?” two mice ask each other. “Read a book? Pick flowers? Go Swimming? Play ball? Climb a tree or gather leaves?” Award-winning graphic art is at its best in this very simple board book that can be shared with a baby or toddler.
Good Night Moon – by Margaret Wise Brown
There’s no denying that this bedtime classic deserves space on every child’s bookshelf. Goodnight Moon is the all-time best-selling board book. Generations of children have loved this book since it was first published in 1947. In lulling language, the author gives an account of a little bunny whose green bedroom grows increasingly darker as he goes through his nightly routine of saying good night to his room and all the familiar things visible in it. Looking for all the objects the bunny names is a fun way for children to interact with this book. At the end the little bunny succumbs to slumber, secure that all the things inside his room and visible through his window will still be there when he awakens. Your little one will also want to say good night to the special things in his room.
Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) – by Dorothy Kunhardt
The all-time best-selling interaction book is Pat the Bunny. Your baby can participate with Paul and Judy in seven activities. They can pat the bunny’s fake fur, lift a small cloth to play peek-a-boo, smell the scented flower illustration, see a reflection in the shiny film, feel the sand paper representing Daddy’s scratchy face, look at a tiny seven-page bunny book within this book and poke their finger in the hole that represents Mommy’s wedding ring. Simple line drawings and pastel colors make this an easy book for even infants to focus on. The double-folded cardboard pages, inside which the textured objects are attached, will withstand repeated use.
Dear Zoo – by Rod Campbell
An adorable storyline with pictures to match: A child writes to the zoo to request a pet, and a series of animals are delivered but rejected for one reason or another by the child. The elephant is too big, the lion is too fierce, the monkey is too naughty, and the frog is too jumpy. At the end of the book the child receives a small hamper with a note, “From all your friends at the zoo” containing the perfect pet, a puppy. With delight, the child accepts his perfect little pet.
Good Night, Gorilla – by Peggy Rathmann
With very few words, but the most expressive illustrations, this book tells the store of a mischievous gorilla who borrows the zoo keeper’s keys and as the zoo keeper is completing his rounds, the gorilla lets the animals out. The gorilla, with all the animals following him, ends up in the zoo keeper’s bedroom, and the little gorilla even snuggles next to the sleepy wife as she turns off the lights. When all of the creatures respond to the wife’s “Good night dear,” they are exposed.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? – by Bill Martin Jr.
This is another classic children’s book. A big happy frog, a plump purple cat, a handsome blue horse, and a soft yellow duck all parade across the pages of this delightful book. The book features repetitive questions about animals and colors that your child will soon be able to answer before you even turn the page.
Sandra Boynton is one of my favorite children’s book authors. What better way to soothe your baby to sleep than with a book that makes going to bed fun. Her whimsical and hilarious style features zany animal characters, such as the elephant, moose, and pig getting ready for bed aboard a giant boat. Children will see their own bedtime routine as fun when they see the animals prepare for bed by taking a bath, finding their pajamas, brushing their teeth, and finally rocking to sleep in the ark. The simple rhymes, goofy animals, and sweet lyrics make for a memorable reading experience.
Where’s Spot – by Eric Hill
This book focuses on mama dog Sally’s search for her wayward pup Spot, who is late for supper. Is the precocious puppy hiding behind the door, under the bed, or in a cabinet? Each page finds Sally in a different part of the house, and contains a lift-up-flap that hides a different animal in each room. Your child will love lifting the flaps and saying “no” each time it isn’t Spot and then saying “yay!” when it is.
Where is Baby’s Belly Button – by Karen Katz
This is a wonderful first book to enjoy with your baby. Karen Katz’s adorable babies play peek-a-boo in this delightful interactive book. The sturdy format and large, easy-to-lift flaps are perfect for parents and baby to share. Karen’s playful text and vibrant, patterned illustrations keep babies mesmerized as they search for Baby’s hand, eyes, feet, and much more.
Daddy Kisses – by Anne Gutman
There are so many books for mommy and baby it’s nice to see a book especially for daddies and baby. What could be cuter than seeing adorable baby animals snuggling with their daddies. Daddy animals kiss their babies in different places. After displaying several different daddy animals kissing their babies, the book ends with a human daddy kissing his baby all over. This is a sweet book and a fun way to initiate playful affection between father and baby.