Reading with Young Children: Recommended Books for Babies & Toddlers

books babies

This post was originally published on Victoria Moms Blog.

I love to read. I have so many wonderful memories of reading from when I was a little girl: curled up in my parent’s window seat with my parents and brother, reading stories before bed; my Dad reading us The Hobbit when we were a bit older; and my Mom reading Harry Potter aloud to me in the hospital when I was in my early twenties! I have always loved books, and when our little girl was born, I knew I wanted to try to pass that love of reading along to her.

We started reading to her from the very beginning. I’ve always had a love of children’s stories, and with the birth of our daughter, I finally had an excuse to start building a collection. I swear some of those books are written solely for the parents! Many of the books that we have are quite hilarious, but the funny parts are lost on our little one. There have been a few books that I couldn’t wait to read to my husband, so that he could laugh along with me, and appreciate all of the wise cracks!

Some of our books were given to us as gifts, but many we have chosen ourselves. Either from the library, or from a local bookstore in Sidney. At first, board books were our go-to: strong, almost indestructible pages, fun sing-song stories, and irresistible illustrations. When our daughter started becoming interested in longer stories, we went in search of some good toddler (paperback!) books. I wanted to get some really good stories that we could read over and over, so I actually did a bunch of research online. We went to the bookstore armed with a list of recommended books!

So whether you are looking for a new book to read with your family, or something to give as a gift … here are some of my family’s favourite board books and toddler books (listed alphabetically by author):


*Peepo by Janet Ahlberg and Allan Ahlberg: This was apparently one of my favourite stories when I was a little girl. My Mom saved this book, and we now read it to our own daughter. It’s a cute, old fashioned rhyming story about a little baby and everything that he sees during the day.

*Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet Ahlberg and Allan Ahlberg: This is another one that I loved as a child, and that our daughter loved too! Our daughter loved looking for the hidden nursery rhyme characters throughout this sweet story.

*The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland: This is one of my favourite books. Beautiful rhymes, a lovely story, and humorous as well! This book is about a very cranky bear … and a lion, moose, zebra and sheep who try to help lift his cranky mood.

*Belly Button Book, Barnyard Dance, Snuggle Puppy, Pajama Time … basically any of Sandra Boynton’s books: We love all of the Sandra Boynton books; the sweet story lines, fun rhymes, and cute illustrations make them favourites in our family.

*The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: This is a classic story for little ones, which explores the life of a very hungry caterpillar and his beautiful transformation. Unique, beautiful illustrations accompany this lovely story.

*The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson: This book tells the story of the Gruffalo’s child, and her adventure in search of the Big Bad Mouse! Your little one can get involved in guessing the various animals that the Gruffalo’s child discovers along the way.

*What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson: This is a fun rhyming story about something the ladybird heard: two bad men’s plan to steal the prize cow. Our daughter picked this story based on the illustrations, but I love the fun and clever story that goes along with it!

*Gossie by Olivier Dunrea: This is a very sweet, simple story about a gosling named Gossie, and her favourite red boots. Every day Gossie can be found wearing her bright red boots … until one day when she can’t find them!

*Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox: This is another one of my very favourite stories for young children. I love the message of the story, and the beautiful rhyming way the story is told. The illustrations are also gorgeous!

*Counting Kisses: A Kiss and Read Book by Karen Katz: This is a sweet book that is titled a “Kiss and Read” book. It’s the perfect snuggly, loving book before bed!

*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.: This is a simple, sweet story for young children, with bright colourful illustrations. We have the interactive version of this book where your child can slide open the window to reveal the animal behind – our daughter loved it!

*Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney: This is such a sweet story of the love between Little Nut Brown Hare and his Daddy. Beautiful illustrations, and a very sweet story.

*Dr. Seuss’s ABC: Our daughter loved this story: the rhymes, illustrations, and silly new words and ideas. It’s not your typical alphabet book!

books babies



*Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin: This is a humorous story about a farmer whose cows find an old typewriter in the barn. They use the typewriter to negotiate a trade for electric blankets for the cows and the hens, who have been finding the evenings a bit cold! This is quite a humorous story – especially for parents!

*The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson: This story is about George, a giant who buys a new outfit to replace his “scruffy” gown and sandals. But on his walk home from the store, he meets a number of animal friends that need his help … and need his new clothes! This is a sweet story, with a lovely message (and musical element).

*Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated) by Florence Parry Heide: Our daughter received this book for her 3rd birthday, and it’s a favourite in our house. It tells the story of Princess Hyacinth, and the unusual princess clothes that she must wear to prevent her from floating up into the sky. It’s a whimsical, cleverly written story that we all enjoy!

*Stuck by Oliver Jeffers: This is a funny and unique book, with wonderful illustrations. It all started when Floyd threw his favourite shoe into a tree to try and free his stuck kite …

*How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers: I’m not exactly sure what it is about this book, but it’s one of my very favourites. It tells the story of a little boy who goes searching for his very own star.

*Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen: This is a wonderful book about a lion who joins the children for story time at the library. A very cleverly written story about friendship, rules … and the times when rules just don’t apply!

*Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey: This book was written in the 1940s, and I read it as a little girl. It’s still a favourite in our house – we went through a period where our little one asked for this story every night! It’s a lovely story about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and their search for the perfect place to raise their ducklings.

*How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan: This is a very sweet story about a little girl who goes to “babysit” her Grandma. A lovely message, and beautiful images that our daughter loves.

*There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes by Michelle Robinson: This is a story of two brothers who collect coupons from their cereal boxes in an attempt to get a free lion. Instead, they end up with a house full of animals, and a bit of mischief. This is a fun and humorous story that parents can enjoy as well.

*Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner: The first time that I discovered this book, I heard the accompanying CD with the story read aloud – and I was hooked! This is a humorous story about a Siamese cat who stumbles into an adventure with a band of Chihuahuas. The story, the Spanish words and accents, the illustrations … all make this one of our family favourites!

*Tallulah’s Tutu by Marilyn Singer: Our little one loves to dance around the house, making this a favourite book of hers (and mine). This book is all about Tallulah’s journey to earn her ballet tutu. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story of perseverance, patience, and finding joy in an activity or sport, is one that we can all relate to.

*The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems: This is a humorous story with fun illustrations. The Pigeon needs a bath … but he’s not at all interested. “Clean. Dirty. They’re just words, right?”

*We are in a Book (an Elephant & Piggie book) by Mo Willems: This cute book was another immediate favourite, and led to a new family joke! In the story, Elephant and Piggie realize that they are in a book – and that whatever they say will be repeated by the reader! They try “banana”, and burst into laughter when the reader says it back to them. This started a family joke where our little girl would turn to us and say “Banana”, and burst into laughter. Then she’d say “Apple!”, “Cucumber!” …  giggling non-stop! Her first joke!

Does your family have any other favourite books? I’d love to hear them, as I’m always looking to add to our collection!

Special Note:

The PCEC (Peninsula Connections for Early Childhood) has been running the “1000 x 5” Children’s Book Recycling Project since April 2008. Their goal is to help children on the Saanich Peninsula to have at least 1,000 books read to them before they turn 5 years old. If you are in need of books for your little one, or have books to donate to this wonderful cause, read more about the 1000 x 5 Project.


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