When my wife was pregnant, I went out and bought the fattest stack of parenting books because, like many expectant fathers, I feared I’d permanently screw this kid up before her first birthday. But as I started researching, I discovered the stuff that seemed most challenging — bonding with the child, developing her social and cognitive skills, etc. — could be handled with one simple strategy: reading aloud.
Reading to your kid promotes brain development by building communication, literacy and social skills. It’s also one of the best ways to bond with your child. In fact, reading is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends parents read to their children daily beginning at birth.
So that’s what we did. We bought a bunch of children’s books. We asked that shower guests bring books in lieu of cards, and I built this forward facing bookshelf to entice the girl with fancy cover art.
And our little reading plan worked. The girl is almost 2, and I think we’ve read to her everyday. The key to this consistency, of course, is having a solid library — books the kid enjoys and you at least can tolerate. Now, if I were an expectant father looking for 10 books that would run the gamut from newborn to toddler, this would be my list.
Dear Zoo is a lift-the-flap book about a kid who writes to a zoo looking for a pet. The zookeeper inexplicably fulfills the request and sends the child a series of exoctic and downright dangerous animals. The child then returns the animals because (surprise, surpirse) they’re too exoctic and/or dangerous, before eventually settling on a [SPOILER ALERT] puppy.
The Lion and the Bird is a wonderfully illustrated tale about friendship and loneliness. However, this book contains paper pages — whereas the rest on this list are constructed from sturdy cardboard — so to avoid your toddler turning it into confetti, wait to introduce it until she has developed the manners and dexterity to gently turn pages.
This is a simple counting book with cardboard pages and 3D plastic ladybugs that disappear, one by one, as you turn the pages. Where do they all go? I cannot tell you that. It would spoil the surprise.
Simple yet effective, Baby Animals T&F features 5 animals, each with a uniquely textured body part: scaly feet, shiny nose, rough tongue, etc. Touch and feel books are a great way to engage younger kids who don’t yet the attention span to follow along with a story.
Another classic, only now each page features a slide door that opens to preview the next animal. I don’t think the slide door version existed in the 90s, which is a bummer because my daughter loves it. When she gets older, I’ll complain: When I was growing up, I had to read Brown Bear without the slide door. Those were tougher times.
We have 3 books by Sandra Boynton, and my daughter loves all of them. But The Going to Bed Book is her favorite and is usually the last one we read before she says ‘nigh nigh’ and daddy goes downstairs to drink beer and watch sports.
This is the consensus household favorite. If I tell the girl to pick out a book, there’s a 90% chance she comes back with Pout Pout Fish, which I’m fine with because the rhyme, rhythm, and repetition make for a short, enjoyable read. That’s the other thing: these books are short. If you take your time, it’s about 2 minutes from start to finish, so it’s nice to have a variety. And in your new world of outrageous childcare costs and diaper prices, a collection of $5 books is one of the best investments a parent can make.