Building my baby’s library was what got me through pregnancy.
During my many years as a teacher, I collected picture books for my future child and once I was actually pregnant, I went all-out building my baby’s library. It was a hobby I relished, as I was determined to have a child who loved to read and I knew that having a robust home library would be a big part of that. Also, I otherwise abhorred pregnancy, so focusing on the creation of a ridiculous library was an excellent distraction.
Because my background is in education and because of my expertise in literacy, selecting titles for my baby’s library came naturally to me. I’ve realized, though, that this isn’t as simple for others and because it’s such a key part of fostering a love of reading, I wanted to share a list of the 100 Best Books for Your Baby’s Library.
Rules for Selecting Books for Baby’s Library
- Books that don’t suck to read. What makes a book sucky to read? Anything that is long and boring. There are very few long, boring books on this list. You’re welcome.
- Books that are relatively gender neutral. There are a couple books on the list that one may argue are “girl” books or “boy” books, but in my opinion, all of the books on this list are good for boys and girls and are enjoyable for moms and dads to read aloud.
- A good combination of classics and contemporary. You’ll recognize some of these titles from when we were kids. In fact, you may very well come across some of your favorite books that you’d forgotten about. But there are also so many great books that have recently been written and I’ve included many of those titles as well.
- Lovable characters. Mo Willems’ Pigeon, Ian Falconer’s Olivia, Curious George, Pete the Cat… the list goes on. Your baby will love these characters and so will you. I can’t stand cats, but I love Pete the Cat.
- Prolific authors. The vast majority of authors on this list have written many, many children’s books. So, if you like one of these books, the chances are high that you can find several other books by the same author to add to your library.
- Books that will span infancy through first grade. There are board books, Indestructibles, Lift-the-flap books and picture books to make your library last from the time your baby comes home to the time she begins to read independently. You’ll get a lotta mileage out of your baby’s library.
100 Best Books for Your Baby’s Library
For your convenience, I’ve included links to Amazon and thumbnails in case you want to judge some of these books by their covers. (If you do purchase from Amazon, make sure to do it through smile.amazon.com and to select a charity so that a portion of your proceeds go towards a good cause.)
I love Olivia and so will you.
This book is so fun to read, especially when your child’s favorite word is No!
The best part of this story is the look on the dad’s face when he realizes he lost his daughter’s toy bunny. Mo Willems gets a gold star for depicting that Oh, shit! moment.
It’s awesome. My mom bought Kyle this book because he loves to purposely read books incorrectly because “Penelope doesn’t know the difference.” This fractured fairy tale can be read as is while still keeping dads entertained. Win win.
A rude cake is a metaphor for your a-hole toddler. I’m pretty sure Rainbow had just had ENOUGH and, while drowning his misery in cake, he decided to write a book that would show his toddler who’s boss. Anyway, you can read this book and your kid will think it’s all about cakes who are jerks, but you will know the truth.
This book makes me hungry. Don’t read it if you’re still contending with postpartum baby weight. Also, don’t read this book if you have OCD, as it will send you over the edge.
Because the random facts this book teaches you (because for the first year you’re reading this book your baby won’t understand any of it) come in handy when you wanna drop some knowledge on your friends or random strangers at a bar.
This is excellent propaganda for dads.
Wow. That thumbnail looks terrible. Anyway, we all remember this book from our childhood (and our parents probably remember it from theirs). As an adult, I can’t help but wonder, What the hell is the matter with this bird? But it’s still a good, classic read.
Because you can never get enough of Eric Carle’s illustrations. Even if your baby’s nursery is Eric Carle-themed, you still want more Eric Carle.
Ugh, these thumbnails suck. Oh, and this is a good book.
This modern take on a classic story is awesome. The illustrations are poppin’ and it’s written in rhyme, so it’s fun to read aloud. (Please forgive the terrible thumbnail.)
A sweet little bedtime story.
Dads love this book and I like that Penelope is learning all about trucks and tractors and shit.
Yes. You read that title correctly. Freakin’ hilarious.
You’ll need to read Walter the Farting Dog after this one in order to stop crying.
This book will make you so sentimental you’ll want another baby. Fortunately, the baby you have will bring you back to reality by wiping a booger on your arm and then demanding you read her this book AGAIN.
I can’t decide if I like these books or not, but Penelope likes them, so I put one on this list. (My friend’s daughter hates these books because the llama creeps her out.)
Elephant and Piggie are hilarious. If you like this book, there are at least a dozen others in the series.
Ferdinand’s a lover not a fighter. This was one of my favorite childhood stories and still one of my favorite stories to read to Penelope. Also, Lena Dunham has a Ferdinand tattoo, so there’s that.
Whether or not it was Leo Lionni’s intent, this story could today be interpreted as being about a gay chameleon, which is awesome.
That’s right. No pictures. Imagine that!
William Steig also wrote Shrek! (Did you even know Shrek was a children’s book before it was the best movie ever?!)
I love these books. I think it’s hilarious how the farm animals eff with Farmer Brown who, based upon the illustrations, looks like he totally deserves it.
Kyle reads this book aloud to Penelope with a western accent and it’s hilarious.
There aren’t many words in this book, which makes it an excellent read aloud when you are not in the mood to read, but still want to maintain the routine.
Am I the only one who thinks the little boy in this story is a jerk? By the end of the book I want to punch him.
A whole book of silly poems? Yes, please!
Technically speaking, giraffes really can’t dance. But in this book, Gerald defies reality and busts out some sweet moves.
Our love for Pete the Cat runs real real deep. Yours will too.
This clever duck finds a bike and all the other animals are like, WTF?! But then they get the chance to ride bikes and realize it’s tons of fun.
When I taught first grade, this was the book that kids wanted to read during choice reading time because there’s a picture of David running down the street butt naked and they thought it was HILARIOUS.
This book got me through chemotherapy. True story. It was a gift from a friend and I read it to Poppy throughout treatment and found immense comfort. This is the picture book that inspired me to write my own picture book (published by Penguin and coming in fall 2017!).
Another classic. This book doesn’t really make sense, but I think we all look past that because we’re like, “But it’s such a good book!”
Because babies and toddlers and little kids ARE destructosauruses. Seriously. Hide anything of value, anything remotely nice, anything expensive, anything that has to be dry cleaned, anything that you care about. Your kid will eventually destroy everything you own. But you’ll forgive them because you have no other choice.
The rhyming in this book is genius. Plus, it’s about a kid who wants to be an architect, which is awesome.
Same as above, except the protagonist is female and this book has an engineering slant. Also, check out Ada Twist, Scientist, another book in the series with a little black girl as the protagonist (something that makes me so happy to see in children’s literature, where there is a dearth of black children on the covers of books).
“Boom!” Poppy says, as she
throws this book in my face brings this book to me to read to her. While Kyle doesn’t understand this book and can’t get over the fact that it doesn’t make sense that a bunch of letters would be climbing up a coconut tree, I think this is a great little rhyming alphabet book.
This is a good book for teaching colors. I recommend the board book edition. We keep our copy in the backseat of the car so we can hand it to Penelope when she’s losing her shit.
I love this story. The illustrations are beautiful and it’s a sweet story about an imaginary friend whose trying to find his human companion in New York City.
The only caveat about Kevin Henkes’ books is that they are a bit long. But, the stories are sweet and the illustrations are wonderful. These books will be especially enjoyable to read when your little one is in kindergarten and first grade.
Poppy can totally empathize with Chrysanthemum, who is teased because she’s named after a flower and her name has 13 letters in it! Penelope Sliwerski feels your pain, Chrysanthemum.
I adore Lilly’s spirit, especially her impulsiveness. Also, check out those accessories.
Because one ninja book isn’t enough, you’ve gotta get this ninja book, too.
This was one of my favorite stories as a child. I keep hoping that if I read this story to Poppy enough she will finally take a nap. Thus far, I’ve been unsuccessful.
This book is genius. Herve Tullet takes your toddler on a colorful, kinesthetic adventure. If you love this story, there are more in the series!
Bernice is having a crappy day, so she steals a bouquet of balloons and while flying through the sky, she gains some much-needed perspective. By the time she lands, she’s in a much better mood. This story has a good moral for children and adults. And, another favorite by Hannah E. Harrison is Extraordinary Jane.
Because you can never have enough rhyming alphabet books.
Just a great story.
You’ll understand why touch and feel books are a must-have for your home library when your kid turns 1.
A classic and one of my personal favorites from my own childhood.
Short, simple read that’s also funny and also another book about the power of perspective.
This book is a bit long, as evidenced by Penelope’s impatient turning of the page before I’m even done reading it, but it’s clever and it rhymes and you’ll love it.
Because eventually you’re gonna have to train your kid to poop and pee somewhere other than a diaper.
The title says it all. (How funny is that apple?)
My grandmother bought this book for Penelope and instead of reading it, she sang the words. To this day, Kyle and I walk around the house singing, “Jamma jamma jamma jamma PJ’s!” to ourselves long after Penelope has gone to sleep.
Another fun rhyming book with an important life lesson — don’t be a jerk.
Like lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel books, this little board book will be a life saver in the car, on the train, on a plane, at a restaurant, or any other place where you need your baby to attempt to entertain herself.
Thanks to this book, Penelope thinks fish are called “blub blubs.”
The best line from this book — All dogs pee — comes to life with a tab to pull to lift the dog’s leg so it can pee on a tree. True story. Not a fan of dogs? That’s ok. This interactive book has a cat companion conveniently entitled Cat!
I bet you didn’t know Winnie the Pooh was a real bear. Oh, and Winnie was a she! Learn the story behind Winnie the Pooh with this beautiful nonfiction book.
This book is on the long side, but it is so cute and clever, it’s worth the read. Plus, crayons deserve empathy, too.
Oliver Jeffers is a fantastic illustrator and he also writes his own books. This one is a favorite of mine, but you really can’t go wrong with anything Oliver Jeffers has written or illustrated.
Because I know all my friends who read this blog will appreciate this book. Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds also wrote two of his own books — The Dot and Ish. I have both of those books and I love them.
You can never have enough books about books.
Every child is a Stinky Face. This book is sweet and its message is powerful: no matter how much of a pain in the ass your kid is, you will still always love her.
Paul Thurlby also has an alphabet book and the art is fantastic. This book has fun, random facts about animals. For example, I learned that when bears hibernate during the winter, they don’t poop! Who knew?!
If you majored in art history, this book is for you. Reading this book aloud to your kiddo will make you feel sophisticated, even if you haven’t washed your hair in days and your clothes have avocado stains all over them.
The 1960’s throwback illustrations are awesome. Equally awesome: it’s a black protagonist. Way to go, Don Freeman. Thank you.
Because we all wish we were Parisians.
Am I the only one who thinks it’s messed up that the mom sent her kid to bed without dinner?
Another favorite Robert McCloskey book from my childhood is Make Way for Ducklings. Caveat: This book has a lot of words.
This is the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who really want a baby. With the help of compassionate zookeepers, they adopt a baby penguin named Tango and live happily ever after as a loving family.
This book is a must-have for every new parent. Your baby will be the boss of you. Also, Marla Frazee’s illustrations in this book are so awesome. Reading this book is like watching an early episode of Mad Men.
My love for Indestructibles runs deep. I recommend having at least half a dozen of these spread between the crib, your purse, the diaper bag, the toy box and the car.
As Penelope approaches age 2, she is really into interactive books. This book has pop ups, spinning wheels, tabs to pull. The fun never ends. And long after she’s tired of the book, I’m stuck with that damn song still in my head.
Straight up girl power. But, an important book to have in boys’ libraries as well.
A sweet rhyming story about loving yourself and all your quirks that make you unique and special and wonderful.
This book is a classic kindergarten/first grade story. Read it to your baby and you’ll pretty much guarantee acceptance into a gifted and talented program.
As an adult who spends a lot of time reading to my child, I’ve decided Dr. Seuss was a sadist. These books are long and borderline tedious. But… I still recommend having them in your home library, as they are perfect for kindergarten and first grade when your kiddo begins to read.
A hilarious picture book about a fish who’s a real jerk. So clever.
Because it’s fun to read books with a horrible, fake British accent.
A must-have for all mothers of boys. Keep a box of tissues nearby.
Remember this one?! Enough said.
A good story about the importance of compassion and taking care of people who take care of us.
Tad Hills is the creator of the Duck and Goose stories. His illustrations are bright and beautiful. This is yet another title to add to the section of your library called, “You will love reading, dammit!”
Remember Viola Swamp?! This was one of my most cherished books as a child and I still have a well-loved copy that I received for my 8th birthday.
I never understood these word books until I realized that pediatricians ask how many words your child can say and my response was, “Umm…” Don’t be like me. Get this book and help your kid learn words other than butt, bye, dada and mama.
Another lift-the-flap book. This one is only a few dollars on Amazon. Total steal.
You really can’t have enough lift-the-flap books. Trust me. From age 1 – 2 these books provide endless entertainment. This particular book is a good way to teach body parts. Or, you could be like me and merely teach your kid where her butt is and that her butt makes a farting sound.
A classic pre-school and kindergarten story.
Similar to Jimmy Fallon’s Dada, this is a great story to read when you really aren’t in the mood to read. Plus, it’ll put you in a good mood because who doesn’t love hugs?
Nancy is a francophile with a sick vocabulary and a flair for accessorizing. Enough said.
Because we’ve all been there.
Because I want Penelope to be well rounded and to read books about topics that are not traditionally “girl” books.
A sweet little story about a bat who’s separated from her mommy. Don’t worry, they reunite at the end.
Whether it’s New York, San Francisco, Paris, London, wherever. Get an M. Sasek This Is… book. You won’t be disappointed.