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How to choose the Best Books for Babies and Preschoolers

Settling down with a book to share with your baby brings comfort and contact between the two of you. It is the beginning of a whole genre of entertainment and appreciation of our world.

How, then, do you choose books for a baby?

Firstly, they need to be made of sustainable material. Board books, cloth books, picture books, pop-up books and rhyming books are all appealing to babies and toddlers.

Newborns see things in black and white and there are books for their needs. Set in a concertina style they can open up and often have simple pictures on either side of the book as it opens.

Older babies respond more visually to books and colours and high-contrast images. Activity books with pictures that stimulate the senses like ‘touch and feel’ books are a great way to start interacting with your baby and a book.

Look for titles like these with content surrounding the world of a toddler. They relate to their own bodies and objects close at hand. Books with sensory activities are good options for this age.

One Foot, Two Feet.
Written and illustrated by Peter Maloney and Felicia Zekauskas:

This counting-to-ten book introduces numbers and shows one object — a foot, a mouse, a goose — compared to a group of that same object. A simple approach to the concept of one and many.

Touch Think Learn: Shapes.
Written by Xavier Deneux: 

A colourful, interactive book that takes babies on a hands-on, shape-filled adventure. As you read, you can help your baby trace each shape with his or her finger.

I Like Vegetables.
Written and illustrated by Lorena Siminovich: 

The touch-and-feel exploration of vegetables is just at the right level of understanding for early book lovers. Explore vegetables of different shapes and colours. Your baby will learn about opposites and discover each vegetable’s texture in this touch-and-feel book.

Little Bitty Friends.
Written by Elizabeth McPike; illustrated by Patrice Barton: 

The rhyming verses and bright illustrations will help introduce your baby to language concepts and elements of the natural world. Read about ants, a caterpillar, and flowers in this delightful nature book.

Thank You!
Written and illustrated by Ethan Long: 

“Bark, bark!” “Hum, hum!” You will spend a happy time together learning how animals say ‘thank you' in their own special way. The cartoon-like pictures of animals saying “thank you” will encourage your baby to hear many different animal sounds.

Tuck Me In!
Written by Dean Hacohen, illustrated by Sherry Scharschmidt: 

Tuck Me In’ is a great book to read with your little one before bedtime. Go through each page with your baby and fold over the blankets until all of the animals — the zebra, peacock, hedgehog, and more — are ready to go to sleep.

As your baby gets older, allow him or her to help you fold the blankets over. Tuck Me In’ is a delightful book encouraging fine motor skills and a chance to learn different animal names.

Peck, Peck, Peck.
Written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins:

Babies will enjoy the bright colors and illustrations throughout this book. Then there is the added fun activity of sticking their fingers through the holes made by pecking woodpeckers.

Me Baby, You Baby.
Written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff:

Rhyming phrases create a story of two mothers and their babies off on an adventure and visit to the zoo. Rhyming books are great ways to encourage a love of language and the sound of words.

Machines at Work.
Written and illustrated by Byron Barton:

Machines at Work is a simple introduction to construction vehicles. It includes bold illustrations of big machines, a lot of colour, and just a few words per page. It is a great way for boys and girls to enjoy big diggers and trucks.

Reading with your child is a special bonding experience. It boosts brain and language development and sparks an interest in books, too. Start with some of these books and as your experience grows, add on new titles that inspire a love of books. Following are a few book recommendations for preschool children.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Written and illustrated by Eric Carle:

The rhythmic language and lots of repetition make The Very Hungry Caterpillar a great book for babies and young children. The small babies will enjoy listening to you read and look at the pictures. The book is about a caterpillar that has had a never-ending appetite for food since birth. The moral story of this book is that change is inevitable in life and is the only constant and we need to adapt to change. It is a perfect addition to your child’s book collection.

The Gruffalo.
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler:

When Mouse takes a stroll through the woods, he meets a fox, an owl, and a snake who all want to eat him! So Mouse invents a Gruffalo, a monster with "terrible tusks and terrible claws, terrible teeth, and terrible jaws." But will Mouse's frightful description be enough to scare off his foes? After all, there's no such thing as a Gruffalo . . . is there? 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury:

A family embarks on an exciting adventure to find a bear. On their journey, the family encounters many different terrains. They slide down a grassy slope, splash through a deep cold river, sludge through thick oozy mud, stumble through a deep dark forest, and walk through a swirling snowstorm. The family eventually reaches a narrow, gloomy cave where they come face to face with a bear, who chases them all the way back home.

The repetitive patterns encourage children to join in, and the simple story line makes it the perfect choice for working on children’s sequencing and narrative retelling skills. Basic descriptive language is modelled throughout the story, allowing children to improve their story retells through the use of adjectives.

The Day the Crayons Quit.
Written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers:

An imaginative story that will have children laughing and playing with their crayons in a whole new way. Poor Duncan just wants to colour in. But when he opens his box of crayons, he only finds letters, all saying the same thing: We quit! Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown, Blue needs a break from colouring in all that water, while Pink just wants to be used. Green has no complaints, but Orange and Yellow no longer speak to each other. The battle lines have been drawn. What is Duncan to do?

Dear Zoo.
Written and illustrated by Rod Campbell:

In Dear Zoo a child writes a letter to the zoo asking them to send them a pet. What zoo animal would you like as a pet? Maybe it is an elephant, a lion, or a frog. As the story unfolds, we discover that some animals are just not suitable as a pet. The ending will be a huge surprise.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
Written and illustrated by Judith Kerr:

The classic picture book story of Sophie and her extraordinary teatime guest has been loved by millions of children since it was first published more than fifty years ago. The doorbell rings just as Sophie and her mummy are sitting down to tea. Who could it possibly be? What they certainly don't expect to see at the door is a big furry, stripy tiger! This warm and funny picture book story is perfect for reading aloud or for small children to read to themselves time and again.