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Books for Babies and Toddlers

Research shows that children who are read to from babyhood do better at school and learn to read more easily than their classmates who haven't had the same early experiences. So choosing books for babies is an important task. Look for simple pictures with bright colours and unfussy backgrounds (plain white is good) and rhyming text or simple stories which are fun to read aloud.

Board books are resistant to tiny fingers and durable enough to be left with other toys for babies and toddlers to explore by themselves. But there is no reason why you can't use ordinary books too, especially if you give babies at the grabbing stage something else to hold.  

Books for newborns
Board books
Ordinary books

For Newborns
Baby Shapes
by Helen Dorman
(The Children's Project)
This set of four books is designed for the first few months of a baby's life. Printed entirely in black and white to give maximum contrast, the first two books feature simple shapes. The third is a series of simple faces while the fourth features more complex shapes including the silhouettes of a cat and dog as well as two mirror pages. Babies definitely relate to these books. Even the very young look at the simple pictures in book one and older babies like the faces. The set comes with a mobile using the same graphics which is designed so babies can look at it while lying down.
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Board Books      
Little Croc
by Emma Dodd
(Campbell Books)
Little Croc is worried about being small so he asks his friends for help. On their advice, he tries eating bananas, grapes and pineapples, but nothing helps. In the end, he goes to the other side of the river and waits. When he comes back, readers have to pull a ribbon to find out what happens when he comes back and the result is an slide-out picture four pages long of an enormous crocodile. Older babies and toddlers love the final surprise and will want it over and over again. Luckily, the book is sturdy enough to withstand tiny hands and repeated use.
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Clap Hands by Helen Oxenbury
(Walker Books)
Larger than standard board books with pictures of happy, multi-ethnic babies and a rhyming text that's fun to read aloud. Most of the pictures lead naturally to encouraging your baby to do the same although you may not want to encourage "squelch, squelch in the mud". A good choice from birth onwards.
Buy 'Clap Hands' from Amazon

Let's Try by Amy MacDonald and Maureen Roffey
(Walker Books)
A series of simple pictures of babies doing a variety of actions plus a single line of text for each one inviting your baby to try to do it too. Good for the very young as it encourages some participation.
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Where is Maisy? by Lucy Cousins 
(Walker Books)
Lifting flaps help babies and toddlers play hide and seek with Maisy - a mouse in striped dungarees. The pictures are simple, bold and bright so are ideal for young babies while the game and simple text link the pages together well. 

Find the Teddy drawn by Stephen Cartwright (bedroom setting) 
Find the Bird drawn by Stephen Cartwright (outside setting)
Find the Duck drawn by Stephen Cartwright (bathroom setting)
Find the Puppy drawn by Stephen Cartwright (kitchen setting)
Find the Piglet drawn by Stephen Cartwright (farm setting)
(Usborne)
Each of these books is a game of hide and seek where the character from the title is hidden in each picture waiting for children to find him. There is a very simple rhyming text (one line per page) and the drawings contain plenty to talk about. All of these books are fun to use with older babies and toddlers and encourage  them to look at the detail in pictures.  
Buy from Amazon: Find the Teddy    Find the Bird    Find the Duck  
  Find the Puppy    Find the Piglet

That's not my puppy by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
(Usborne)
A feely  book with bright primary colours, simple drawings and textured inserts to encourage babies to reach out and touch the pages. On each spread, there's a different dog  "that's not my puppy" and the reason why it's wrong  is always something to feel. (it's too hairy or shiny or bumpy). The last page has the right dog which provides a satisfying ending.  This is a useful book for babies but is probably too simple for older toddlers. 
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
(Hamish Hamilton)
This very simple story takes a caterpillar from an egg to a butterfly and, in order to grow so much, he has to eat a great deal. Pages of different sizes and holes for small fingers to explore add extra interest to a story which is just right for the very young.
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Ordinary Books    
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
(Walker Books)
From cover to cover, this book is a delight. The birth of one little baby who was born far away is followed by the arrival of another baby the next day and then another six from from various ethnic backgrounds. All of the babies have ten little fingers/and ten little toes and so does the final sweet little child who was mine, all mine. The chubby, almost roly-poly, babes are lovingly portrayed in Helen Oxenbury’s delectable watercolour illustrations, and each dimpled one is as cuddlesome as every other.
   This brilliantly simple, rhythmic, rhyming book is a must for all babies.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Baby Parade
by Jakki Wood
(Frances Lincoln)
This book is packed with babies and toddlers and there's a different theme on each double page spread - eating, bathing, sleeping etc. . The pictures are full of things to talk about and the rhythmic text is good to read out loud.
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Babies Start Here
by Bill Gillham and Liz Pichon
(Frances Lincoln)
Carefully based on research into how babies learn to talk, this word book concentrates on the words babies want to say. On the left hand side of each double spread are four objects clearly drawn on a white background. On the facing page, is a bright, busy picture designed to encourage your baby to spot those objects again. Although this book is designed for the very young, the pictures show family activities rather than babyish ones so it could also be used for older children with special needs.
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The Baby's Catalogue by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
(Puffin)
This is a book full of babies and the objects and people that feature in their lives. There is no text at all but the gentle, amusing pictures provide an endless source of things to talk about. 
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Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta Stickland
(Puffin)
For some reason, small children are fascinated by dinosaurs and they love the cheerful, friendly ones in this book. The rhyming text is a delight to read aloud and will encourage even the shyest parent to put some expression in their voice. Fun for babies and toddlers of all ages. Also suitable for older children with special needs.
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Eyes, Nose, Fingers and Toes by Judy Hindley and Brita Granström 
(Walker)
Excellent illustrations with a touch of humour combine well with the rhyming text of this book which will help children have fun learning the parts of their bodies. There are plenty of actions to copy and it all builds up to a lovely definition of a hug as "a bundle with you inside".
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Get into Bed! by Virginia Miller
On your Potty! by Virginia Miller
Eat your Dinner by Virginia Miller
Be Gentle! by Virginia Miller
(Walker)
This series of books features a toddler bear called Bartholomew and his loving but sometimes exasperated carer bear, George. Human toddlers will easily identify with Bartholomew who doesn't always do what he is told (not straightaway anyway) and who has a vocabulary which consists entirely of "Nah".  Get into bed is a good choice for babies and younger toddlers as the plot is very easy to follow and there is plenty of cuddling, huggling and snuggling to join in with. On your potty makes a good companion to potty training while Be Gentle , is a slightly more complex story about being kind to kittens so is better suited to older toddlers.
Buy from Amazon: Get into bed!    On your potty!
   Eat your dinner!    Be gentle!

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