It’s never too early to start taking the first steps toward literacy! Early exposure to language through reading, talking and singing has such a profound influence on children’s learning through life that the American Academy of Pediatrics now requires pediatricians to “prescribe” reading from birth.

So what types of books are best for babies? Here’s our research-based roundup:

Board Books

  • You’ve probably noticed that many books for babies come in this format. Why? Babies are still developing control of their fingers, and the stiff pages are easier to manipulate than paper pages. These sturdy books also withstand mouthing from babies and toddlers, which is a primary way they explore the world. (They do this because the nerve endings in their mouths are more sensitive than those in their fingers at this age!)

High Contrast Books

  • Babies’ developing brains are tasked with processing a lot of information! Research shows that focusing on simple, high-contrast images allows babies’ brains to rest and helps prevent overstimulation. Babies prefer to look at black and white images, bold colors, and photographs of faces.

Books for Active Reading

  • Almost any book can be made interactive, but certain books build it right in to their structure! Look for books that encourage toddlers to seek, count, name objects, answer questions, and make predictions. All of these activities build attention span and critical thinking skills, which are important foundational abilities for later academic learning.

Books with Repeating Text

  • Ever notice that baby books can be kind of….repetitive? This is intentional! Books with predictable, repeating text (often rhyming text) expose babies to the patterns of language and them to anticipate what is coming next. In addition to building vocabulary and memory skills, these books involve children as they grow by empowering them to join you in “reading” the repeated words.


  • Listening to you singing rhyming and repeated text helps build your baby’s early language skills. Plus, many of these songs encourage movement and gross motor practice.

Research also shows that keeping a wide variety of books within children’s reach encourages a love for books and reading. Let them choose what you read from the earliest age, and – most of all – enjoy the time together!

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