Baby & Toddler

Your Baby’s First Year:
What to Read to Them at Every Stage

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credits: Jaunty Junto, Digital Vision/Getty Images; Elyse Lewin, Photographer's Choice/Getty Images; Ippei Naoi, Moment Open/Getty Images; David A Land, Blend Images/Getty Images

The difference between a newborn baby and a 1-year-old is so amazing! In that one year, they grow and change so much.

Here are some of the things your baby may be doing and learning over that first year and some books and reading techniques that may work well for them during each of their various stages.

  • 0–3 Months

  • Babies are so little at this point, without a lot of ability to interact. But they love to be held and touched during this time, which makes it the perfect time to hold them on your lap with a little book and start helping them develop a love for reading. They should also be doing tummy time, so you can lie next to them on the floor and hold a book in front of you both, which gives them something look at as they strengthen their chest and neck muscles.

  • Counting Kisses

    by Karen Katz

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    This book is perfect for physical touch with your little baby. On each page, there’s a different body part to kiss, from belly buttons to toes. And who doesn’t want an excuse to kiss your baby a little more?

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  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

    by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

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    Babies love looking at other babies, so this is a popular one. It features babies from all over the world and gives you plenty of chances to tickle their little fingers and toes.

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  • Pajama Time!

    by Sandra Boynton

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    Sleep (or lack thereof) is probably on your mind a lot during this period, so this fun and bouncy bedtime book might be just what you both need to make bedtime a positive experience.

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  • 6–9 Months

  • Your baby is probably pretty wiggly now, starting to crawl and maybe even cruise along the furniture, which means it can be more challenging to get them to sit still for a book. Don’t push it — you don’t want them to associate reading with unhappiness — but try a few times a day. They’re starting to learn names and also object permanence (meaning that something is still there, even if they can’t see it) and they’re really interested in seeing themselves in the mirror.

  • Peek-a-Zoo!

    by Nina Laden

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    This cute (and short!) book ends with a little mirror where a baby can see himself. And it’s brief enough that even if your baby is super wiggly, you can probably squeeze in a reading of it.

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  • Animal Spots and Stripes

    by Britta Teckentrup

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    This book has gorgeous illustrations and the pages are a cross between standard and board book papers, so your baby can touch and turn as much as she wants. And seeing the animals behind the flaps is great practice for understanding object permanence.

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  • 9–12 Months

  • Now your baby is probably really mobile and starting to think about first words. They can identify different objects by name now, so books where you ask them to find items are really fun for them. They also love to move, so any book that encourages action is sure to be a hit. Many babies, now a little more used to being mobile, will be happier to sit on your lap and read.

  • Baby Talk

    by Dawn Sirett, photographs by Victoria Blackie

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    This book has been hugely popular with my girls and great practice for them as they learn their first words (it only has half a dozen words in it and it’s perfect for imitating). Plus, they love seeing other babies.

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  • First 100 Words

    by Roger Priddy

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    This book is the kind of thing little ones love to pore over, identifying things they know, finding things on demand, and enjoying the pictures. I’ve never met a child who didn’t beg to read this one over and over.

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  • Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

    by Salley Mavor

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    This is the most incredible nursery rhyme book with hand-felted art to go along with each rhyme. The ones that lend themselves to actions are especially fun at this age.

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