When my first was born, we bought a flurry of books, hard, soft, black and white, colourful, pop ups, stories, sounds books, shapes, lift-the-flaps, whatever one may find. So by the time smallie arrived, we were covered.
Or so we thought.
Surprisingly, the process of introducing books to my little turned out to be entirely different. We did a truckload of board books (she had a penchant for ripping and chewing), but they followed almost a pattern of sorts.
It’s never too early to read to those unblinking eyes and pawing hands so we began her own individual journey at a precocious 2 months old.
This little book in stark white and black one dimensional images, mainly objects, is great for those first few months, when baby doesn’t recognize colour. I’m not entirely sure of the truth to the theory but my little one would pick this one up herself well into her 9th month.
The dearest little bedtime book the world will recommend to you, is just as good as people say. At 2.5 years, my little one will recite it as she goes through the illustrations, pretending she’s the bunny that goes to bed, watching the pages darken as bedtime nears.
Beware, flaps may be torn! The first book we roared and hissed with, Dear Zoo is that perfect story to draw the attention of a baby. As you open each flap and accompany it with a loud animal sound, a stomp or even a funny expression, be sure, little hands will slowly and then not so slowly figure out how to tug on those same flaps and imitate those same sounds. Dear Zoo comes in many formats!
Also fabulous for this age are
Baby Touch Books, for letting baby experience texture.
Where is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz for introducing baby to their own body, and eliciting many a giggles.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star illustrated by Sylvia Long for the longer version of the song that is sure to be your forever lullaby.
Eric Carle will find a large space on your bookshelf, but the first one my little fell in love with, was this one. In lyrical style he takes us through all the animals and their colours, to end with a teacher and students. Next up is Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear, in which you’ll hear the wonderful animal sounds.
My little lady was an early talker, only because her older brother is an absolute chatterbox, and she simply needed to keep up in conversation with him. But learning words and what they mean came easier to her with this book. Taking her through numbers, colours, and funnest of all, other babies and their actions, when she was yet unwilling to sit through a story, this book is what worked in our reading journey. Roger Priddy books are must haves.
Some kids love vehicles, and my kids are those kids. This wonderful book takes construction vehicles and their actions, so push push push for a bulldozer and so on, in a repetitive fashion till it’s almost a sing-along. And then on the last page you get to see what a wonder these vehicles have worked together to build. An absolute favourite!
Closer to 18 months, my little one was finally ready to sit a breath without dancing around and listen to a whole sequence of events. In her perfectly lyrical style Sandra Boyton takes her battalion of animals through a ‘goodnight routine’. This was the first of many bed time routine books to come (read Peppa, Spot, Maisy), but the writing is still the best!
Some of our other favourites included
Acorn Wood series by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler for its simple animal stories and lift the flaps.
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett for its repetitive words and brilliant illustrations that shows these 4 things transforming into each other. My words don’t do justice.
At the one and a half year mark, when the nursery rhyme ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes’ became the household anthem, this Sesame Street book featuring our favourite Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster was the perfect book for body parts. We loved that each page had actions that babies need to do along with the characters, and the questions too, like what colour are your eyes?
My little one adored Spot. He was possibly one of the first characters she immediately took to and her ‘story’ journey began with pulling out books that featured him. This one was bound to be a topper since her Dad is her favourite! Again the sequence of a simple day with Dad with all sorts of relatable things they do together made this a go-to along with all the others in this series.
Before the dastardly pandemic, my little one started Playschool and this was our prep book to show her what school would be all about. With Goat and his boo-boo’s making the kiddos laugh all along, I can’t recommend this one enough.
My little one had been exposed to the alphabet well before the appropriate age because of her older brother, however this was the first book we actually read to her that featured all the letters. A hilarious rhyming story of letters climbing one on top of the other to the top of a coconut tree until a colossal fall, we loved the fun words like chicka chicka boom boom and skit skaddle skoodle doot that repeated every few pages.
We had many many more we went back to now that sitting through book readings were a real thing, including
Peppa’s Diwali because the setting was appropriate and Peppa and George and their muddy puddles are a favourite in our home.
Llama Llama Hoppity Hop by Anna Dewdney for being the perfect dance along book when there’s just too much energy to sit still.
Maisy’s Bedtime by Lucy Cousins because repetitive characters in different settings did the trick for my little one.
A delightful rhyming book with a game of I spy in it, my little one loved that it brought together characters from so many of the other stories and nursery rhymes she was listening to. Expect to find the 3 bears and Jack and Jill hiding in there!
With his classic illustration style we enjoyed this little book that has mix and match flaps, making it an activity of sorts as she matched a circle to the sun and a diamond to a kite. I loved that it showed her real objects in the shapes and then we’d make a game of it, hunting around the house for things that could match them.
We speak a mish mash of Hindi and English at home and as expected my little one does a beautiful job of smashing up the language till it sounds right out of a Bombaiya movie with little to no grammar skills. I love bilingual books but this was our first attempt with a Hindi Book and what a hit it was. She loved the numbers and the cute story of the ill bear. I loved that numbers weren’t just about counting rote. We coupled it with Hippos go Berserk by Sandra Boyton and had a fun number thing going!
As I mentioned with her penchant for tearing, I was always weary of introducing my little one to push and pull books, especially when the flaps would come unstuck in seconds. But close to 2.5 years she was too enamored by the story to really put all her effort into destruction. A simplified (read very simplified) Jungle Book, do listen to the song Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai when you read this one. The combination makes it irresistible for the kiddos. We also love the Campbell Fire Station (Busy Books) and Moon Landing (First Explorers).
For experiencing textures, Never Touch a Polar Bear by Rosie Greening is a great touch and feel book with lovely bits of information in there.
Pull-out Picture Books by Little Learners, specifically I Can Share, are a great way to remind them of the Thank Yous and Pleases we all love to hear from even the tiniest of tots.
One day, my pea found this book tucked away on the book shelf. It was her brother’s book, one he simply couldn’t stomach. That day to today, we read this incredible story at least once, every day. She prefers the Gruffalo’s Child to the Gruffalo because Papa is scary but baby is not (in her words). With an engrossing story, words that rhyme, a bit of a spook and the very creative Gruffalo character, this popular book, is popular for a reason!
One of the loveliest books we’ve read till date on planets, this one was actually a favourite with my older boy when he had just turned two. He loved it for the lyrical words but also the unique bright illustrations and the almost human character given to each planet. I loved the size of this book and it became the one I’d carry on all outings.
Often 2 year olds (and 1 year olds, and 3 year olds) develop a fascination with using their hands not so kindly, aka a thwack here and there and sometimes a full blown whack. We loved this book since it didn’t just say ‘don’t hit, it’s not kind’ but instead actually told kiddo what all she could do with her hands! The same words from the book reiterated when she’s closing to giving a Hulk smash have yielded many a wave and flying kiss now.
With so many Look Inside Usborne books available, one better than the other, it is this one that grabbed the fascination of both my children. I’ve always been wary of lift-the-flap books with my little because I hate to see our pages mangled, but this one has been a winner. Not only does it take you through all the construction vehicles and building materials, but also shows you how so many different things are built, from the frame of houses, to the window panes on tall buildings. I’ve always wondered if my older one’s favourite activity of building with lego, magna tiles or whatever else he can find was because of an early introduction to this gem!
We’re almost at the point where paperback and hardcovers have taken over the board books, but there a few more we love and will likely continue to read for the next while.
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain finally gives names to the feelings that little is experiencing but unable to articulate.
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle with its vintage illustrations and message of kindness and patience is a real treasure.
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is another one for the collection, because really, all Eric Carles should be!
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