First Books for Baby and Helpful First-Year​ Reading Tips for 2023

First Books for Baby and Essential First-Year Reading Tips

This is the first post in our series about reading and language development. In this post, first books for baby, we will not only give you some great ideas for how to read to your baby but we will also give you some of our favorite books to get you started.

We have other posts to help you create a library but with so many choices, how do you know where to start when choosing the best first books for babies? That is where we come in. Not only do we have 5 children between the two of us, but my 20+ years working as a speech and language pathologist has given me a unique perspective into the language development of children and the important role that books play.

With this post, we hope to help you find the best first books for babies as well as the types of books you want to incorporate into your library.

*Baby Books First Year contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Reading for Language Development

Reading to your baby is so important for their language development.  In the beginning, this can feel so awkward. After all, how much will an infant understand? In the newborn and infant stages, babies will not understand words. 

However, they are soothed by the sound of a voice, will prefer their mother’s voice to that of a stranger, and will begin to respond to different intonations.  When you read to your baby, you are creating a designated time for interaction and language development.

There are different kinds of language.  Verbal language (talking) and nonverbal language (eye contact and turn-taking) are equally important and when you read to your baby, you are allowing development in both areas. So how do you do this? 

Tip 1: Start Early

Initially, when you read to your newborn, they are listening to the sound of your voice.  I used to read books that rhymed at this age because I liked the flow of the book.  It was soothing for my kids.  But, at the newborn stage, you can read anything.

Do you have a novel you are reading? Read that out loud in a calm and soothing tone.  Studying for an exam, reading a magazine? You can read those out loud.  The tone of your voice and the time together are the most important things during this newborn stage. Remember, at this age, there are no wrong first books for baby.

Tip 2: Take Turns

Let your child give you cues.  As soon as your child starts making noises (at about one month), use this as a chance for interaction.  When you read a story and your baby makes a noise, pretend they have just commented on the book and respond to them. 

For example, you could say “Yes, you are right, that is a cow.” Or you can say “I love the picture of the truck.  It says beep beep.”.  Not only are you giving your child vocabulary but you are building the foundations of conversational speech by taking turns. 

As your baby starts to make more sounds, you can extend the turn-taking into asking questions. Take your time to ask your baby about the pictures on the page. Be sure to pause and wait for your baby to “answer”.  Their answer can be a noise, a leg kick, or even just their eyes following what you are pointing to. 

Either way, use this interaction to answer the question and add more information.  For example: “Do you see the pig? Yes, you are right that is a big pig.  The pig is pink.”

Tip 3: Read and Talk, Talk, Talk

Every opportunity to talk to your child gives them a better chance for language development as they grow.  Narrate the world for your baby.  This may seem so strange at first but, your child will get so much information from the things you say. 

They can learn body parts, counting, action words, plurals, and the names of the things that surround them all day. As you talk, your child learns about the world around them.  Think of yourself as the narrator and star of a movie. For example, as you are getting your baby dressed, you can say, “I’m putting your socks on your feet.  One foot, two feet.  Here we go. One sock, two socks”.  

What else can you do to interact with your baby? Sing to them.  Even if you have the worst voice in the world, your baby will love to hear you sing.  I particularly like songs that have actions like “Row Row Row Your Boat” or “If You Are Happy and You Know It.”  I also like songs with turn-taking opportunities like “Old MacDonald”. 

Even if your baby cannot answer with words, they may make sounds or noises to let you know they are taking their turn.  Another favorite in my house was the game peek a boo.  While this is such a simple game, there is so much to learn about turn-taking, waiting, and anticipation.  These are all building blocks of communication later in life. You can look below for some books that fit into this category. These are some of the best first books for babies.

Creating a Library of First Books for Baby

If you are not sure where to get started with the best first book for baby and their library, we have a list to help you get started.  We love each book that we listed for a different reason and we will give you ideas of how to use these books to build language skills. 

As your baby grows, you will see which books they like best and you can grow their library accordingly. We have listed some amazing baby books for the first year and how to use them to help with language development.

Our Favorite First Books for Baby

Bath Time

Bath Time by Sandra Boynton

When your baby is in the bath, you are face to face and this provide the perfect place to play with your baby and talk to your baby.  Having a book in the bath makes both bath time and books fun. You can use this as a chance to name body parts and count.  Ex: ”I am washing your toes. You have ten toes…one, two, three……”.

Why We Love This Book: Promotes interaction during bath time, makes bath time and book fun, can learn to name body part.

In my life


In My Life by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

This is one of my favorite songs of all time so having it in a book with gorgeous illustrations is a bonus.  Singing the song while looking at the pictures is one way to read this book. 

You can also read the book and point out all the beautiful illustrations.  Another idea is to show the pictures while playing the song . I love this song but there are so many more books based on songs. 

Another of my favorites is What a Wonderful World and Kirsten loved to read Baby Baluga. Just remember, you baby thinks your are the best. This is one of the best first books for babies if you want to incorporate music.

Why We Love This Book: In Tip 3 we talked about singing to your baby. This is a perfect way to start

Baby Lets Eat

Indestructibles: Baby, Let’s eat by Amy Pixton

There are so many books in the indestructible series.  These books are perfect to take anywhere, read anywhere and not worry that it will get ruined.  These books are literally indestructible (get the pun?).  We love this book because not only does it talk about food, but it is divided into colors as well. 

You can read the book and emphasize the foods, emphasize colors, or even talk about which foods are fruit and which are vegetables.  The more language kids are exposed to, the better their vocabulary will be.  If you are out and about (fingers crossed we can do that soon), you can use those few minutes of waiting to read.

Why we love this book: This indestructible book helps with language, colors, and food. What more can you ask for in the first books for baby?

Ready to your baby everyday and other first books for baby

Read to Your Baby Every Day: 30 Classic Nursery Rhymes to Read Aloud by Rachel Williams

I love reading nursery rhymes to my kids.  Some of them are interactive- like this little piggy, some are sweet and some are just plain silly.  I love the rhyme and rhythm of these poems. Their short nature also makes it easy to read a few at naptime in addition to having them be more memorable than longer books. 

The fact that these are silly and don’t make sense is also part of the fun.  As your child gets older you can point out all the silly things that make the book interesting. I always read to my kids in a special chair at bedtime.  I put them in my lap at an angle so I could see them and they could see the book.  This way, I could always see their reaction to the pages when they were too young to ask questions for themselves.

Why we love this book: Nursery Rhymes are a staple for first books for baby.

jamberry

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

This was Kirsten’s favorite book to read to her kids and as soon as you look at the pictures and start reading it, you will understand why. The rhythm of the story and the non-sensical rhymes make the book completely captivating. 

A boy and a bear head out on an adventure to pick berries in this delightful classic kids book. Marshmallow Cattails? Waffle and butter lily pads? Yes, please!

As a bonus, there is counting in this alliteration picture book as well. No list of first books for baby would be complete without this adorable read.

Why We Love This Book: It has rhythm and rhyme, counting, and alliteration, and it is adorable.
Appropriate for ages 0-5
Find this book in Alliteration Books / Counting Books / Rhyming Books / Best Board Books / Kids Food Books

Love Block and other Valentine's Day Books for Toddlers

Loveblock by Christopher Franceschelli

We love the entire series of Block books. These chunky flap books are some of our favorites of all time. In this book, the elephants, pandas, sloths, and eagles all show their love in different ways.

Not only can you talk about the different animals and where they live but, this sweet book gives you the chance to show your child how much you love them. For example, you can show your baby that love takes time by taking extra time to give their hand a kiss. The anticipation of the peck can be just as much fun as reading the story. You can make up your own examples for each animal.

Why We Love This Book: Book about love, flaps help physical development, can learn their animals

Baby Faces and other First Books for Baby

Baby Faces by Margaret Miller

Babies learn to read facial expressions and a young age and babies are naturally captivated by other babies.  Not only does this book have lots of baby faces with different expressions, but there is diversity in the pictures. 

You can read the story and expand to ask your baby questions to go with the pictures.  Your young baby will not answer in words but that is totally fine.  Giving a few seconds and following their lead is a great way to practice taking turns in a conversation.

Why We Love This Book: We love the baby faces and the different facial expressions

Time for Bed and more books for 2-year-olds

Time for Bed by Mem Fox

Rhyming, animals, and the sweet words in this book make it the perfect companion before bed. I loved setting up a routine that let my kids know bedtime was coming.

We would bathe, put on lotion, and snuggle up to read a story. I made sure that my voice was quiet and soothing. Even if you have a new baby, incorporating a book into your nightly routine is a wonderful way to end the day.

Why I Love This Book: Rhyming for language development and lovely illustrations of animals make this a perfect going-to-bed book to include in the first books for babies.

Appropriate for ages 0-3
Find this book in Bedtime Books / Classic Books for Kids / First Year Reading Tips / Newborn Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books / Animal Books for Kids

seetouchfeel


See, Touch, Feel: A First Sensory Book to Share with Baby by Roger Priddy

Everything is new for your baby.  Colors, sounds, and sense of touch are all brand new.  I love that this book gives your baby a chance to experience all these new things with great pictures. Each picture has a sensory activity that will stimulate your child’s natural sense of curiosity. As you read to your child, you are helping them develop a language of their senses.

Reading Readiness Skills Posts

More First Books for Baby

We love books for a babies library. Looking for more books? Check out these posts:

First Books for Baby Girl’s Library

First Books for Baby Boy’s Library

Baby’s First Library

Unique Board Books

Did you find this list of first books for baby helpful? Which books would you add?

Amazing first books for baby's library. Each book is also paired with suggestions for HOW to read to a  baby to increase language development. Perfect books for baby's first year.

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