Looking for a great gift for the baby or toddler in your life? Books make great gifts for the holidays. Here are sixteen of my favorites. I’m including a very short review to help you make your choices. Books last long after toys have been broken or forgotten or electronic gadgets become obsolete. This list builds the child’s reading brain and serves as a joyful vehicle for bonding. I’m featuring classics—all tried and true. Come back to this list often—you can use it all year long!
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clemet Hurd (Harper, 1947)
A classic bedtime story loved by parents and children alike for its endearing text and musical calming effect. A little bunny says “goodnight” to all the familiar things in his room. This may be one of the first books a child asks to have reread over and over. At three years of age after you have read this book three hundred times, the child will memory read it back to you—a jumpstart to real reading!
Fingerplays and Songs for the Very Young by Carolyn Croll (Random House, 2001)
This wonderful little board book gives all the classics, with easy-to-follow instruction for what to do while chanting or singing the rhymes. Actions involve baby’s hands, feet, and toes.
The Helen Oxenbury series, including books such as Clap Hands, Say Goodnight, and Tickle, Tickle (Little Simon, 1999)
These books feature babies in the illustrations and include both visual and physical stimulation. Babies love looking at the pictures of other babies!
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (Simon and Schuster, 1982)
A lovely board book for learning words about taking a bath, finding pajamas, brushing teeth, and saying good night.
The Berenstain Bears Old Hat, New Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1970)
A wonderful board book with two-word sentences that babies can later learn to read from memory.
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang (Greenwillow Books, 1983)
A board book for counting when baby/toddler is ready for bed.
Moo, Ba, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton (Simon and Schuster, 1995)
Every baby/toddler loves to play, “What does the _____ say?” This is the perfect little board book where dogs “bow wow,” cats “meow,” cows “moo,” and pigs say “la, la, la.” It’s a great choice for teaching sounds and later for reading syllables with perfect interest level and word choice for early reading. This book is pure fun!
But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton (Simon and Schuster, 1982)
A great board book for teaching rhymes. All kinds of things happen in this book where the “hog and the frog hurry out for a jog.”
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (Random House, 1940)
A wonderful interactive touch and feel-good book that encourages baby/toddlers to do all the fun things they like to do: pat the bunny, look in the mirror, wave bye-bye, clap with delight, and gesture that bunny and baby are “Soooo big!”
Mice Squeak, We Speak by Arnold Shapiro, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997)
What a clever book for baby/toddler who is learning to talk! All of baby’s favorite animals are here to neigh, cluck, howl, growl, and croak—all beautifully illustrated in vivid colors. With just two words on almost every page, this is a great book for early readers!
Piggies by Don and Audrey Wood (Harcourt Brace, 1991)
Beautifully illustrated by Don Wood, this lovely interactive touchy and feely book is another wonderful first reading for beginners with bold print and two or three words on a page.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
A delightful easy-to-read story with repeated pattern and rhyme recommended for babies that many children learn to memory read independently by the time they can walk. Children delight in the animals, color words, and beautiful illustrations, and it’s a great book for building a beginning reader’s confidence.
Time for Bed by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Harcourt Brace, 1993)
“It’s time for bed” for all the little animals—and baby/toddler too. A beautifully illustrated time-for-bed book with repeated text and lovely illustrations. Perfect for reading over and over and later memory reading.
A Is for Astronaut by Sian Tucker (Simon and Schuster, 1995)
This is the perfect lift-the flap ABC book for learning to speak and later to read new words, with bold colors and clear illustrations that babies and toddlers will love.
The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Henry Holt, 2000)
Based on the song, “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” this is a great sing-along book with all kinds of great words for learning sounds as the monkeys go eeeeh, eeeeh, eeeeh; the skunks go ssss, ssss, ssss; and the vipers go hiss, hiss, hiss, along with all kinds of other surprises. Words are presented in big bold letters so baby or toddler can “read” along, pointing to the words on the page as soon as he or she can speak. Sometimes baby/toddlers read words before they speak!
Where Is the Green Sheep? By Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (Harcourt, 2004)
This is a perfect book for learning to speak and later read new words. It has perfect word choice and repetition for early readers.
[This list is adapted from Raising Confident Readers.]
And what book should you get for the child’s parents? Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write from Baby to Age 7 (Da Cappo/Life Long, 2010) by J. Richard Gentry, of course!
Dr. J. Richard Gentry is the author of Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write–From Baby to Age 7. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and find out more information about his work on his website.