The summer holidays are always an exciting part of a teacher’s year, and this year has been no exception. One of our first adventures was a road trip from Manchester , where we live, to Sligo on the west coast of Ireland to see one of my oldest friends get married (we have been friends since brownies!) We hadn’t done a major road trip as a family like this before but we thought the ferry would make a nice change from a plane plus we could pile the car up with all sorts of stuff rather than the rather poultry suitcase allowance we would get on a short flight. All good so far. But just how many books could we fit in a family car and how may would we need to get us through a week of hopping around B’n’Bs and hotels? Eventually I whittled it down to ten books and they had to be versatile enough to be read many times. You’ll be glad to know we made it through the holiday, had a great time and read all the books on the list several times so if you are doing something similar soon this might come in useful.
I don’t know about you but it seems to be getting to that time of year again where everyone is having babies. And with that comes the task of buying presents for the little bundle of joy. It’s something I love to do but as the mountains of baby clothes and toys pile up isn’t it nice to be the person who picks out something that will last beyond the first twelve months? That’s where books come into their own as a well chosen book, even a board book, can be treasured long after the first birthday. In fact the chosen few may even be passed on to younger siblings or even generations of children and grandchildren. My mum saved a couple of my old favourites and I love sharing them with my little girl.
But what should we be looking for in a good book for a baby? Well, it needs to be visually appealing, have some element of the familiar about it (either the setting, characters or something else that the baby can start to recognise and relate to) and some element of playing with words. This may come in the form of rhyme, repetitive phrases or fun words that they can gurgle along to and try to imitate. Most importantly, it needs to be fun for the person who has to read it aloud (many, MANY times) so that they want to keep reading it and the baby gets to hear it over and over again.
Feeling inspired? Well, I have done some pretty extensive research and here is my guide to eight of the best books for babies. Every one of these can be found on my own bookshelves and my reviews are not sponsored, they are just books that I know babies love. All you need to do is pick your favourite, buy it, wrap it up beautifully and then open up the world of books for the next age of bookworms…
Part 1- The classics
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle.
This book will always have a special place in my heart as it is the first book I ever read to my baby when she was just a couple of weeks old. When I was changing her nappy I used to wedge it between the changing mat and the wall for her to look at and, due to the high contrast pictures, she was mesmerised. The sentences are repetitive which make it easy for children to join in with and repeat (once they are a bit older!) and it also focuses on key vocabulary building with colours and animals. Perfect for a sibling to read to their new baby brother or sister. No wonder it’s still going strong almost fifty years after it was first published.
We’re going on a bear hunt. Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
Every child will associate with the excitement of going on an adventure with their family and whether you choose to believe it was all in the imagination or you think there really was a bear you will find yourself sucked into the story. It has beautiful, atmospheric illustrations, lots of opportunities for making pre-language sounds and a repeated verse to join in with. A staple of any nursery book shelf.
The tiger who came to tea. Judith Kerr
A whimsical tale of what happens when Sophie and her mother open the door one day and find a hungry tiger there. (Don’t worry, this tiger isn’t frightening- unless you count the cost of the food it makes its way through). It has a lovely gentle tone and the illustrations are classically beautiful which is part of the reason it has stayed a favourite with young children for decades.
Each peach pear plum. Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This was one of my favourites as a young child and if I really think about it I can still recite most of it by heart, so it gets a big tick for repetitive, rhyming, memorable language! It cleverly weaves a tale using familiar fairy tale characters so that children can transfer what they know from one book into another. The illustrations are really detailed so that as the child gets older they can start to spot different things in them and it ends with everyone on a big finale page so you can recap what happened and who everyone is. It was tough to pick just one of the Ahlberg books but this one just shades it for me because it grows with the child as they get older and will be read and loved for many years.
Part 2- The Quirky
What a wonderful world. Illustrated by Tim Hopgood
This is the book I have recently been giving to new babies, including my new baby niece. It is different enough that they probably won’t be given it by anyone else, beautiful to look at and really embodies all the sentiment you feel when a new baby arrives. It uses the lyrics from the famous song sung by Louis Armstrong (written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss) and has such a feel-good, positive message that no one will be able to resist it.
Orange pear apple bear. Emily Gravett
In my opinion a work of total genius. Each page contains the same four words in different orders to tell the story. The illustrations are so clever- comical, sensitive, beautiful. I don’t know how she came up with the idea but its perfect for tiny ones and their limited attention span as it can be read very quickly or you can linger over each page, depending what mood your baby is in! The epitome of short but sweet.
Part 3- Recent finds
Shh! We have a plan. Chris Haughton
Stunning to look at with a simple, pared back style of writing and a repeated phrase, this one is a winner with the littlies. This book also has the added appeal of making the smallest character the cleverest. I also loved that the moral of the story is that kindness and quietness is often the best tactic. Again, it was hard to pick just one book from this author, any would be suitable as a baby gift but this one just shades it for me because it is soooo eye catching!
Where bear? Sophy Henn
High contrast illustrations aplenty in this gorgeous book about a bear and his boy. There is lots of repetition, plenty to talk about within every picture (many of which you may want to pull out of the book and frame for your walls) and if you happened to have a white teddy to go with it, this would be a perfect gift. Also great for when little fingers are able to point as they can find the bear and the boy on every page. Stylish enough to grace any nursery bookshelf and one that I am always happy to read aloud again.
Well, now you’ve seen my pick of the books for babies, I’d love to know what you think. Is there something glaring that I have missed out? Comment below, I’m always excited to read your recommends and add them to my reading list.