Inspiring Books on Hope for Babies and Toddlers

by Miranda Rosbach

Image credit: Andersen Ross Photography Inc/Getty Images

After the year we’ve had, it seems all too fitting to start the new year off with an assortment of hope-filled books. While I’d argue that babies and toddlers can’t yet conceptualize what hope is, those tasked with their care are certainly infusing hope into the minds and hearts of these little ones with the words and media presented to them. And when those words, ideas, and content are filled with possibility and positivity about what is yet to come, well, that is hope.

Hope is the aspiration that every generation passes to the next — a palpable desire that those after us will be a little bit better, a little more compassionate, and a little more loving than their predecessors. May these books fill your shelves and homes with that possibility. The possibility of hope.

  • I Look Up To... Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    by Anna Membrino, illustrated by Fatti Burke

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    An omniscient narrator begins by telling young readers all the reasons they look up to Ruth Bader Ginsberg. First, Ruth is smart. She listens and reads and learns from others. Ruth is strong. She takes care of her body so that she can feed her mind too. Ruth is a leader. She works to create equality in the world and so can you. Interspersed with RBG quotes, this is one of our favorite selections from the I Look Up To… series.

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  • I Am!: Affirmations for Resilience

    by Bela Barbosa, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

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    Take a moment and pay attention to how you feel in your body. Scan each part: your legs, tummy, shoulders, hands, and heart. If you don’t like how you feel, you can change that by using affirmations or positive phrases like I Am Brave, I Am Calm, I Am Loved. Feelings (no matter what they are), are okay. And they can change. This hope-filled book provides young children with the tools they need to begin training their body and mind to connect more fully.

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  • Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?: A Who Was? Board Book

    by Lisbeth Kaiser and Who HQ, illustrated by Stanley Chow

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    Martin grew up in a family filled with love. He went to church and made friends, which grew his capacity for kindness. However, not all people treated Martin (and other Black people) with the respect and love they deserved. When Martin grew up he became a leader in his community and worked to peacefully change people’s hearts. This compact historical board book is ideal for young learners.

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  • Kindness Makes Us Strong

    by Sophie Beer

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    Kindness can be shown by acknowledging others, helping someone, or waiting patiently. It can be sharing a treat at the lunchroom table or cheering someone on in a sporting activity. This vibrant and age-appropriate board book showcases a variety of children in different settings all making the choice to be kind. This is a must-read for any caregiver and toddler who are just beginning to navigate how best to interact appropriately with others.

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  • Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind

    by Jessica Hische

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    Jessica Hische masterfully showcases the attributes of kindness in this book about animals looking after one another by creating kid-relatable scenarios that allow for further discussion. You can never have enough books about kindness, which links so closely with the ideals of a hope-centered life; and with a book this lavishly illustrated, you may want to frame some of these gorgeous spreads as art for your home!

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  • Tomorrow Is Waiting

    by Kiley Frank, illustrated by Aaron Meshon

    As a parent puts her child to bed, each kiss good night is a wish for tomorrow. A hope that the child will have chances to explore the world and act in kindness and friendship with others. While difficulties of a new day may arise, tomorrow is a chance to face challenges with bravery and to listen to the wonders of the world with new insights. Bold images set the backdrop to this universal message, a hope that all loving parents have for their children: to act in and with love throughout their lives on this beautiful planet.

  • Who is Smiling?

    by Yusuke Yonezu

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    There’s nothing quite like the early smiles of a new baby. It is the great reward for all the sleepless nights of new parenthood. Similarly, giving little ones positive associations with books will hopefully lead to them becoming lifelong readers. A board book master, Yusuke Yonezu plays with simple shapes and patterns to create ebullient images for babies. These are always my go-to baby shower gifts.

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  • God’s Dream

    by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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    Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes of his philosophy on unity and forgiveness for the littlest of readers. Even though we come from different families or speak different languages, we are all united through faith and love. A reassuring message for families of many beliefs.

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  • La La La

    by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jaime Kim

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    This nearly wordless picture book starts with a young girl in her room simply singing la la la. Her room soon expands with hues of purple and pink, merging into the nighttime landscape, as her melody soars upwards towards the moon. What transpires next is a friendship of lunar proportions and a girl’s wish fulfilled just before slumber settles over our precocious protagonist. A truly lovely bedtime read.

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