person carrying baby while reading book

Passing on a Love of Reading to Your Children

I love reading books and I want to pass this love along to each of my children. So I figured the best way to do this was to start them young and learn how to help them love it. Whenever I tried searching the internet for books for babies I got huge lists of favorite books, which is great but it didn’t tell me what I wanted to know. Books are great on their own but they can be used for so much more too!

Books are a great way to learn and develop more skills in a safe environment. This lets you control the narrative or how your little one interprets what they are learning with the books your read. Because of this, I wanted to know what kind of developmental stages babies and toddlers are going through and why certain books are better or more loved than others.

And thus, this post was born!

Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link and decide to buy something, I will get pennies for referring you. This in no way changes the price for you. It just helps me make a bit for doing what I love.

Reading at My House

Pictures of Scarlett reading at various ages. Left 7 months, top 1 year, bottom and right 2 years.

I have a two-year-old daughter who loves to read. We started reading books to her early on, and by the time she was 6 months old and able to sit up on her own, she was already turning pages by herself and reading independently.

Granted, my daughter didn’t know the alphabet or what the words said, but she loved looking at all the pictures and the fun games that we play with the books. Now, she is content to read a stack of books for over 30 minutes on her own or bring me books to read together.

Babies and books

person holding baby feet
Babies grow so fast in the first couple of years!

Babies grow and change so much during their first year physically and developmentally. In the beginning, your baby will love the time to cuddle and hear your voice. Later, books become a gateway to learn more about the world. A love of books can translate into a successful future because you can learn just about anything from a book.

To keep your kiddo entertained first, you need to find books that are right for their age. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy all new books every three months. Many books can keep your baby entertained for a while as long as you change how you read them to your little ones.

Here are things to look for in baby books and different ways to keep books interesting for your baby as they grow and develop.

Books for Babies 0-3 Months

Newborns and little babies don’t have good eyesight. For the first two months, they are learning how to move and focus their little eyes. Typically they will focus on an object 8 to 10 inches away from them. By the end of the third month, your little one should be reaching for things. This entire time is about getting to know each other and building a bond of love and trust.

Your baby won’t care about the story, but they will love the cuddles and hearing your voice. Baby books with big blocks of colors or large well-defined shapes are best. They are also discovering the world around them. Crinkle books or other noise-making books can be very entertaining. Books with songs lyrics can also be very soothing and a fantastic addition to a nightly routine.

Books for Babies 3-6 Months

baby under purple blanket

Your little one is starting to roll over and become more adventurous. Your baby’s hand-eye coordination is getting better, and they can see in more colors. This means your little one can help you turn the pages and will start recognizing their favorite stories.

They are also beginning to communicate. Your little one might even have a babbling conversation where you go back and forth for a bit. Reading books at this age helps them develop a more expansive vocabulary later.

Books with songs you can sing together will be a big hit! Rhymes and songs can help your baby pick up words and phrases quicker later. Plus, they just like listening to your voice. The crinkle books may still be a popular hit at your house. We also loved books with animals, babies, and mirrors. Babies love looking at themselves and learning from other babies.

Books for Babies 6-9 Months

baby in yellow onesie lying on floor

Babies in this age range are starting to problem solve and are experimenting with new things. As they become more mobile, their eyesight becomes even better. Try out books with ribbons or touch-and-feel books.

This age group loves discovering new textures. They are also exploring cause and effect. Books that make noise or lift a flap are perfect for helping them explore this concept. My favorite lift a flap books have felt flaps that you don’t tear like paper ones.

One thing you will learn quickly is repetition is the name of the game. They will play the same games over and over or read the same books. You might be getting bored, but your baby will be captivated! But just because your little one wants to read the same book 10 times in a row does not mean that you as a parent have to. Try offering various books and slip in a less-loved or forgotten book between rereading some of their well-loved favorites.

Books for Babies 9-12 Months

smiling toddler holding red balloon

Your baby’s vocabulary is expanding! They probably won’t be talking back to you in a traditional conversation. However, your little one can understand many simple words and will begin communicating with simple sounds. This is a great time to introduce animal noises. Books with animals can help your child learn more about the world around them and gives you a great place to match animal noises with pictures of different animals.

Another idea is getting small baby dictionaries to help them explore more of the world around them. This age is learning about cause and effect right now. Try breaking down different parts of the story simply. This will help your baby understand what is happening better. Another fun skill they are starting to learn is how to point. Make sure to use your finger and visually point out what is happening in the story as you read or explain out loud. Pointing while reading will help your little one connect what you are saying and what their little eyes are seeing.

Pointing can also help keep your little one’s short attention span focused for just a little bit longer. If your child’s attention span isn’t long enough for a long story, try pointing out individual things in the various pictures and skip the storytelling altogether. There will be plenty of time later to learn the entire story.

Books for Toddlers 12-15 Months

child in red and white striped shirt looking out the window

Your little one will be moving more than even during this time and will most likely start walking or running. This means that it might be harder to convince your toddler to sit still and read a book. However, books can be a great way to help an energetic little one unwind and calm down at the end of a busy day or before nap time.

Your toddler’s personality is really starting to come out, and they will express their opinion. This is a perfect time to pick up books about things they like. My daughter went through a phase where she wanted to read books about cats or any book with a cat in it. Your little one might like trucks, princesses, animals, or baby sharks.

Let them choose between two or more books to help them feel more independent. Allowing them to express their opinion can also boost their confidence and show that you are listening.

Books for Toddlers 15-18 Months

toddler playing water

Your tiny tot is using their fingers more than ever to explore everything. Whether they are poking, tearing, or touching, they are discovering more uses for their fingers. This is a great time to play “Can you find …?” in your books. Ask your toddler to find an object they are familiar with, like bubbles, flowers, or shoes. You can play this game in any book, and it is a great way to keep an old story entertaining and new in the eyes of your little one.

This is the time of the early tantrums as your toddler begins to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. Books are a great place to point out how characters feel at different points in the story. Keep your explanations simple with your little one. You can also point out how a character feels the same way your toddler did earlier in the day. There are many spectacular resources to help young children recognize their feelings and how to react in a positive way to big feelings.

Books for Toddlers 18-24 Months

child reading book

It’s time for the vocabulary explosion! Your little one most likely can say quite a few words. Don’t worry if they don’t yet. Soon enough, they will copy every word right as it leaves your mouth. Some great books to help them grow their ever-expanding vocabulary are picture dictionaries or ABC books. My favorites are ABC books with a page full of things that start with a particular letter. It introduces the alphabet and letters while helping your little one learn many words that don’t come up in everyday conversations.

This is also the time your little one will start using their imagination and playing pretend. Imagination play is a big developmental step for your child. Play with them, and maybe try acting out some of your favorite stories together. Pretend to be different animals you see. If some of the characters are eating or drinking, pretend to eat or drink too.

Your toddler is starting to become a great problem solver. Ask them what they think a character should do throughout the story. Talk through the decision process together before turning the page and finishing the story. These little moments of teaching will impact your tot outside of storytime.

Learning from Books the Good and the Bad

girl in red zip up hoodie smiling

Your little ones will learn and copy things from books that you may not pick up on at first. So be careful what is in your books. We have a book where the children discovered all these different ways to play with a box. At the end of the story, they ended up tearing the box into pieces and playing with the remains.

My daughter started copying it. At first, it was just sitting in a box. Later, she ripped up boxes because that is what the kids do in the book. This newfound joy in ripping transformed into ripping up all of her books. I was not very happy about that. I am still trying to find a better use for this destructive talent.

On the other hand, my daughter would never give us kisses when she was little. She allowed us to kiss her cheek, but she would only give kisses to her stuffed animals. We received a copy of The Pout, Pout Fish, which is fantastic and one of our favorite books! The story ends with two fish kissing. After reading this book, she started kissing us because she saw the fish doing it in the book.

Things to Keep in Mind

person carrying baby while reading book

Reading is a vital part of a child’s development, but remember to keep it fun for your little one. As cool as the book is, your little one enjoys spending quality time with you more. Also, take a deep breath in as I let you in on a secret.

You won’t mess up your baby’s life by reading them a book outside of what I’ve recommended in this post. I obviously recommend keeping things age-appropriate. Meaning you probably won’t try to sit a one-year-old down a read them a chapter book. You’re welcome to try, but I don’t think it will work too well. But don’t worry if your little one likes books outside their age range.

Keep up the great work you are doing! Taking care of a little one is a tough job. Just reading this post shows that you care about them and are going in the right direction.

More Resources!

All of the information about developmental stages I use in this post comes from Zero to Three. They are a non-profit organization advocating for babies and toddlers. They have a lot of amazing resources for parents, clinicians, and anyone else interested in early childhood development.

I have so many fun books and ideas for reading with babies and toddlers that everything couldn’t fit in one post! So keep an eye out for other posts about my favorite board books and more tricks for reading with children. Also, make sure to check out this page to find some books for you to read too!

Happy Reading!
Emily