Good books for the infant?
May 30, 2009 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Good books to read to the infant child?

People state you need to read early to your kids. Ours is less than a year and he pretty much wants to eat most of the books we try to read to him. Any recommendations on books that a really teeny one might actually like and that might help their development and help our interactions together? Thanks!
posted by skepticallypleased to Human Relations (41 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Books that rhyme were really appealing to my little ones, which is easy, because a lot of young-child books rhyme for just that reason.

Dorling-Kindersley/DK has good board books with great pictures and textures that my kids loved to look at and feel.

Amy Wilson Sanger has a series of board books about different types of ethnic food that we also really enjoyed--My First Book Of Sushi was given to us, and we sought out other books by the same author. Great, vibrant collage-style artwork that was fun to look at for both baby and parents.

This silly book, Skidamarink! I Love You! still gets pulled out now and then, even though my youngest kid is five now. The pictures of babies, combined with the fact that the words in the book are a song we can sing together, are pretty much a power combination.
posted by padraigin at 9:56 PM on May 30, 2009

Before they can talk and understand what you're saying, the most important thing is to let them hear you talking and to hold them. Read aloud whatever you're interested in reading. The actual content doesn't matter much.

My mother apparently read me romance novels when I was a baby.
posted by decathecting at 10:08 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Peek-a Who? and Grow Up! are good for tiny ones. Both by Nina Laden.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is another good one. Very shortly after the first time we read it, our son started trying to make animal sounds (woof woof, etc). Most of his books are awesome for babies.

I'd also recommend Big Little and No No Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli.

Almost any Sandra Boyton book is a winner, but we had so many of them that those were the ones we let him eat!
posted by peep at 10:11 PM on May 30, 2009

Time for Bed. There is also a smaller, cheaper version, isbn 0152010551. It's an adorable little board book.

Mercer Mayer's Little Critter series. We've read these to our son since he was three months or so.
posted by boo_radley at 10:14 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

My husband read The Economist to our infant :-)
posted by pinky at 10:15 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Sandra Boynton for the win. Especially Dinosaur's Binkit (has some textural stuff), Snuggle Puppy (You've got to really sell it, though), Barnyard Dance, and Wake Up! ("broccoli stew... for the bunny, not for you. Oh, phew" gets 'em every time). There are also some great lift-the-flap books in the Maisy Mouse series that are pretty sturdy.

I'd also suggest that you don't get fixated on actually reading the books through to completion at this point. If they want to stay on a single page for 10 minutes, or turn the pages back-to-front, or read the first page of three dozen books in a row, it's all good. Just as long as they are having fun with the books and getting some good mom's/dad's lap time.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:39 PM on May 30, 2009

Thanks so far mefi! I've ordered a couple from amazon even at this point!. The Time for Bed seems like a no brainer -- amazing customer reviews.

(We've tried the grown up read whatever serious periodical so as to familiarize to cadence and vocabulary)......but either I'm seeing some early ADHD or what-not but he just won't sit through it -- especially if nothing with eyes is on the page......will want to eat it though.....(When might that stop anwyays?! -- Yes, first kid).

I can't wait until he becomes a toddler and really "gets" the plethora of toddler books out there but at about 7-8 months old, I feel that's still about a year away. Some they'll take too and some not. So far, it's only the Karen Katz series for us. Perhaps the No No one will lead to more of her series.

Thanks so far again. I hope this becomes a good reference list for future searches.
posted by skepticallypleased at 10:43 PM on May 30, 2009

Um, no one's mentioned Dr. Seuss?
posted by trip and a half at 10:50 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

My dad read classics to me, a nightly ritual which took us through to Freshmen year of High School. Because of this, I am a voracious reader with a stellar vocabulary and a penchant for the "canon."
posted by litterateur at 10:51 PM on May 30, 2009

Well, Goodnight, Moon of course. I've read it to my daughters every night of their lives at bed time. And they're 9 and 12. The 9 year old recently asked me, when she goes to college, can I call her up and read it to her at bedtime? I'm guessing she might change her mind by then, but you get the picture.

Richard Scarry's BusyTown books are great for toddlers, who like to pore through them, Like the Sandra Boynton's, they're a bit more for older kids who will sit on your lap and look at the pictures. All the little drawings are fascinating. Where the Wild THings Are is great but more for 4 or 5 year olds.
posted by msalt at 10:52 PM on May 30, 2009

At that age don't worry about reading the words - Just point to things on the page and say its name. Animals, babies, household items, things that make noises are all good. If the books still go into her mouth, then board books are a good idea. The library is your friend here - they don't mind a little wear and you can try out lots of books to see which ones you and your child enjoy. Keep the readings time short and fun - the magic is mostly in the mutual attention. When he is old enough to understand the words is when you want to make a habit of reading together. I also recommend Chinaberry Books. I think they do a very nice job of selecting the books and their recommendations are usually very good.

And don't stop reading to her once she starts reading on her own. Children can understand more than they can read for many years.
posted by metahawk at 10:59 PM on May 30, 2009

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. Great fun, especially if you have an actual drum lying about.

The Hairy McLairy series.

Wibbly Pig books.
posted by rodgerd at 11:39 PM on May 30, 2009

"Mommy Loves"
Goodnight Moon
Pat the Bunny - goodnight bunny (we actually read this to our baby when she was still in side!)
The Going to Bed Book
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:13 AM on May 31, 2009

Barnyard Dance entranced my nephew because it allows very rhythmic delivery. Also he laughed when we would do high-pitched voices for the chickens.

I told a friend with a toddler "oh, there's one book he really likes, a little rhythmic song" and she said, "let me guess - Barnyard Dance?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:30 AM on May 31, 2009

Also we would do Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Pattycake with him from very early, and it became clear that he remembered it and started "requesting" those games when we would see him, by starting the gestures with an expectant look - far before he could talk. So, songs and little song-games are also good and get through even pre-verbally.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:33 AM on May 31, 2009

Any books. Let them snuggle with you and hear the rhythmic cadence of your words, and the inflections and animations in your voice. That's all you need. Could be the cookbook (since it has pretty pictures of food) and it'd still work.
posted by davejay at 1:28 AM on May 31, 2009

Oh, and definitely read "The Nut Brown Hare", but only after reading this paragraph in which I mention that neither my wife nor I can read that book without giggling because mentally we both substitute "The Brown Nut Hair" for the title -- as I presume parents have been doing pretty much since the book was written. Your kids will enjoy hearing you laugh.
posted by davejay at 1:31 AM on May 31, 2009

Mother Goose, for sure. Anything with textures they can feel like the "That's not my..." series. Anything with photos or interesting illustrations of stuff your kid likes (e.g. animals, trucks, etc.) Barefoot Books puts out a great book of finger plays (think "This Little Piggy Went to Market"), which are more interactive than simply reading and thus more likely to keep your baby's attention.
posted by libraryhead at 2:25 AM on May 31, 2009

Young infants love pictures of faces, and I can't remember if 7-8mo is too old, but you might experiment with magazines or catalogues with a lot of pictures. The baby-goods catalogues that're probably arriving by the carload are ideal.

Nth Boynton, who drives me around the bend a bit but who is very popular here.

"Where the Wild Things Are" is a favourite here w/a 21mo, for what that's worth. Monsters!! Terribly exciting. I have read The Tiger who Came to Tea hundreds of times to great acclaim. Mog is a delight as well. Jez Alborough's Hug was an early favourite.

I like Rock Steady's advice. I also suggest reading as many different books as you can manage to read (even if you don't make it through to the end) now, because the familiarity will make them more appealing to a toddler who will likely want the same books over and over and over. I started a lot of longer storybooks "too early" and that turned out to be a good idea; it gave me an early quiet-lap-sitter-for-long-stories.

Angela Banner's Ant and Bee books are amazing but out of print and ridiculously priced -- for now. Here's one scanned in. And I am a believer in the Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme (see also).
posted by kmennie at 3:33 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've recommended these books several times before, but get the board book editions of the CARL! books.

Carl is a loveable Rottweiler, so trustworthy that Mama leaves the baby alone with him in different settings--and mayhem ensues. The illustrations are lovely and words are few, so you can make up your own way to tell the story.

These have been my children's favorite books and at a year-and-a-half, they both yelled "CARL!" when I asked them what they wanted to read. Awesome, awesome books. And if your baby wants to chew on them, no big deal. That's what board books are for.

posted by MonkeyToes at 5:25 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Baby Zizzle is five and a half months. I read a bunch of different things to him, but I find the books he likes best are tactile ones --- ones with different textures to touch --- and pop-ups.

We've been reading Ten Tiny Tadpoles, Duckling and Friends, That's Not My Bunny (there are variations to this such as That's Not My Car). He has a crinkle book called Things That I Love, and board books like Goodnight Moon (complete with yellow socks!). He has a soft book that I don't even know what the title's made of cloth and has a picture of a monkey on the front of it. I just call it The Monkey Book. He loves that one a lot.

I've also read some of the Curious George books to him. :) And a few other books not specifically designed for infants. The trick with those ones is to be careful he doesn't rip the pages.
posted by zizzle at 5:36 AM on May 31, 2009

I'm actually a bit of a skeptic as to the reasoning behind reading books to an infant; I personally think the injunction to read from the earliest age is to get the parent in the habit of reading to the child. At around 14 months, my son actually started being interested in being read to, as long as the book had pop-ups; by 18 months, he wanted to be read books for the content, not just for opening the pop-ups; and by 2 years, he wanted to be read to all the time. But before that, he really wasn't interested, and aside from hearing my voice read words rhythmically, it wasn't that appealing for him.

There are more direct ways to stimulate a small infant's language-learning. At this age, nursery rhymes and clapping rhymes and bouncing rhymes are far more appealing to the baby -- sitting the baby in your lap, facing you, holding his hands, and doing "Pattycake" or "Round and round the garden" or "London Bridge" or "Ladies Go A-Canter" or whatever, bouncing him on your knees. You only need to learn 5 or so, because repetition is good.
posted by palliser at 6:05 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

My daughter is 11 months old and pretty much a bookworm even at this age compared to her baby friends. Even she can't handle anything more complicated than a board book. Plot and characters mean nothing to her. She likes clear pictures, short text, funny sounds, and turning pages. Big hits with her (i.e. big smiles, clapping, handing me the book to read it again) are:

Little Scholastic Baby Days (she loves these, they are small enough to fit in her hands, and she can sort-of turn the pages).


Noisy Farm, another lift the flap book

Baby Says Peek-a-Boo, yet another lift-the-flap book

We also have several of these cloth books, and she enjoys those as well, although I find the text to be pretty dumb. Sometimes I just say whatever I feel like instead of what's there.

I've also been reading Goodnight Moon (board book version) to her nightly for a while. She likes to point at the pictures.

Happy reading!
posted by tk at 6:07 AM on May 31, 2009

Well for bedtime, nothing beats On the Night You Were Born.
posted by bunnycup at 6:47 AM on May 31, 2009

Just for clarity's sake -- I wasn't saying parents shouldn't try reading, or shouldn't do it if their babies are interested. But your question suggests your baby isn't really into it, and if yours is squirming and trying to eat the books, as mine was, you might try the clapping rhymes instead at "reading time."

Here's my kids' favorite, done while holding the baby's hands and bouncing him in time with the rhythm:

Ladies go a-canter, a-canter, a-canter;
Gentlemen go a-trot-trot-trot,
Gentlemen go a-trot-trot-trot,
Hunters go a-gallopy-gallopy-gallopy-gallopy-GOO!

At which point you throw the baby in the air or lean him way back or whatever he likes.
posted by palliser at 6:57 AM on May 31, 2009

Goodnight, Moon

"Moo Baa La La La" (sandra boynton)---this is my absolute favorite Boynton.

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" (Eric Carle)---there's a board book version (we have three copies of it!), and there's a reason this is a classic. It's just about perfect.

I like counting books and alphabet books, too---no need for plot.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:12 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wanting to eat the book doesn't mean the baby isn't enjoying hearing you read it. Having to fight the baby for the book is annoying but will pass.

Maybe occupy baby's hands with something else while you read? (Probably won't work, babies seem to crave paper at a certain page, but you could try.)
posted by lakeroon at 7:51 AM on May 31, 2009

We're all voracious readers and had great fun reading to our daughters from the night we brought them home. Not because we're trying to turn them into infant geniuses, but because we love to read, it sets up a sweet, cuddly nighttime routine, and allows our girls to settle down before bedtime and after PJs and milk. (We have a 3.5 year old and a 16-month-old and are expecting a boy in September).

Big faves at 1 year old were the Baby Says Peekaboo books (there are several, and ours are so worn out that we had to buy doubles for a few of them). These books have flaps the baby can grab and open and tactile spots that they can touch -- the yarn of a doll's hair, a fluffy bit of towel (for Bathtime Peekaboo), etc. The flap + tactile stuff is a genius combination, so The Very Hungry Caterpillar is good as well (with holes to poke little fingers through), as is Pat the Bunny.

Other books that made our babies crazy-happy were the Baby Signs board books. Big pictures of baby faces and babies doing basic signs for "eat", "drink", "blanket," and more. They'd look at the faces and the pictures on their own, too -- and of course, they picked up the signs, which really helped lower frustration levels when they started using them. The "Mealtime" and "Nighttime" books are great, and there are also Animal signs that they loved as well. The other good thing about these books is that you can apply the signs as you read other books, to add more action to books that may be a tad over their heads at 1 year.

Any rhyming or actionish book works well at 1 year, but books with hard pages are best -- they're easier for little fingers to turn, and our 16-month-old has just now started *not* to rip the pages of her older sister's books. It didn't stop us from buying and reading books for older kids, but wear and tear can be fast and furious at 1 yr.

Also -- familiar faces are of huge interest, so if you can get a very sturdy small photo album, put pics of friends and family inside -- our older daughter loved her album of people and would carry it around everywhere til it fell apart.

A couple of other books our younger daughter loves now: Bear and Ball and its companion, Bear and Kite. Chugga-chugga-Choo-Choo. Oh, and No Biting by Karen Katz -- it's about alternatives: "No biting your friends! What can you bite? (turn flap) -- Apples!" We're wearing this one out, too. And we're currently on a Goodnight Moon kick.

Each kid is different -- but these have been gold mines for us. Have fun finding your own family classics! It only gets better.
posted by mdiskin at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2009

I love the Happy Baby set of books (Animals, Words, Colors and many more). They are sturdy and chewable, simple and bright so they keep baby's interest. My son was generally more interested in turning pages than being read to, so the less words on each page the better. He did start to react to the familiar words and objects from the happy baby series, and they were a favourite for a long time.

Also kmennie - OMG Ant and Bee! I had forgotten about them, but your link brought back fond memories. If only they were still in print.
posted by Joh at 9:22 AM on May 31, 2009

At this age, your baby will not hear plot or character, just the pattern and rhythm of language. Read poetry, Shakespeare's plays, or anything well-written. I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my newborn son. Read things you like, the baby will hear it in your voice.
posted by theora55 at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I didn't mention this in my original post, but I would like to commend you for reading to your child.

I once babysat for a family who said that I could read to their child, if she behaved. I was horrified--reading is a gift, not a privilege.

I have yet to meet a person who was read to growing up who didn't become a lover of books. It doesn't happen nearly as often the other way around.
posted by litterateur at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2009

In my family, Moo, Baa, La La La was the favorite Sandra Boynton book. Other favorites include The Foot Book, Wombat Stew, Bread and Jam for Frances, and In the Night Kitchen.

Definitely stay in the habit of reading to your kiddies. Nothing brings back fonder memories than looking through the picture book section in a bookstore and remembering my folks reading them to me, or me reading them to my little brother, or me thumbing through the pages and making up wild stories.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:50 AM on May 31, 2009

I do some board book selection for a small branch library. I find that very little kids like photos over drawings in books, and especially photos of other babies.

Other than baby face photo books, ones that have been hits were a series of board books about earth movers and alphabet books with photos of objects.
posted by clerestory at 12:58 PM on May 31, 2009

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Pat the Bunny. Also, Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See and Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear by Eric Carle. My 9 month old likes all of these. Make animal noises at the book.
posted by artychoke at 5:08 PM on May 31, 2009

Blue Hat, Green Hat by the ever-recommended Sandra Boynton is super-cute because each page ends with "oops." The 10 month-old I babysit for (who's generally more interested in chewing on books than paying attention to them) will sit still for that book because she's waiting for me to say "oops!"

Taro Gomi is infamous for the Everyone Poops, but he's a fantastic illustrator who uses bold, attention-getting colors. I like Spring Is Here and My Friends.

Nthing Goodnight Moon. I have no idea why that book entrances the littlest kids, but it never fails.

Some reading tips: give one cardboard book to the kid for chewing so she's less interested in grabbing the one you're reading to her. Or if she's a pacifier-addict, plug her in so she's calmer. It teaches kids that reading time isn't a chore or a time to abstain from things they want to do. Buy mainly cardboard books until she's able to really appreciate reading time, because she'll tear out any paper pages and frustrate both of you. And yes, rhyming, changing your pitch, hand movements, predictable vocal tropes are all ways to keep them rapt while you're teaching them to love reading.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:14 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, classics. Shakespeare might be nice. Simple books in a second language? Then you can switch to entertaining and engaging books when the baby starts to understand, but I wouldn't underestimate the benefit of exposure to the loftier works when they're still little.

Or, since the books only look delicious and aren't being absorbed, you could take bedtime to finally read a book that you've been wanting to read, just out loud.
posted by motsque at 7:29 PM on May 31, 2009

We read Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle a lot. Also "Everywhere Babies" by Marla Frazee, and cloth books from Priddy Books. As my daughter got closer to a year old, she was a big fan of Dorling Kindersley-type board books, with lots of photos and not much text: My First ABCs, My First Pets, My First Animals, My First Things that Go, etc. We had or read just about all of the books you can see from here; kids love to see pictures of other kids. Also, lift the flap books were a big hit.
posted by mogget at 9:31 PM on May 31, 2009

Thanks for the amazing responses. I hope it helps more people. I think palliser has a good point that other people discuss -- rhyming, reptition, and cadence is huge at this stage. It's amazing HOW LONG it takes for a teeny one to really get into this stuff -- understand it, anticipate it, etc. But, the suggestions here surely are the foundations for reaching it.
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:52 PM on May 31, 2009

Oh, the wife recommends the Snappy Little series. Most of them are good, some of them have noisemakers that you'll have to disable.
posted by boo_radley at 10:00 PM on May 31, 2009

I think you can read anything you want. Part of what they're learning is the sounds of the words, but they're also learning to sit still and take turns, turn the pages, look at pictures, etc. Board books are great because they can play with them on their own w/o tearing them up. Just find books that you like and whose message you like ('cause you're going to be reading these a lot! Things that annoy you a bit will annoy you a lot more over time). Here are a few of my son's favorites. He's sixteen months old:

Hest/Jeram - Kiss Good Night
Watt - That's Not My Dinosaur
McBratney/Jeram - Guess How Much I Love You
Seuss - Hop on Pop
Seuss - One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
Rescek - Hickory Dickory Dock and Other Favorite Nursery Rhymes

It doesn't hurt to read him/her a bit of whatever you're reading. If my son is playing in a room and I'm near him, reading, I often read a bit out loud. Being exposed to words and the idea of reading is more important, at this point, than the actual content.

Though you can read at any time, you might want to include reading as part of your evening ritual--a time for winding down before bed. Kids are more prone to want to sit still and listen then. You can snuggle together and read a book or two to end the day. It's nice.
posted by wheat at 7:06 AM on June 1, 2009

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