This is one of the most common questions discussed at Youth Services Reference Desks across the country.
Parents come in frazzled and worried about what types of books they should read, the kinds of stories their babies will enjoy, and how long the tales should be.
The following list offers a good foundation of quality children's authors whose books are perfect for infants:
- Karen Katz (My personal favorite is Counting Kisses)
- Byron Barton
- Donald Crews
- Rachel Isadora (I See or I Hear)
- Sandra Boynton (Absolutely any of her stories)
- Todd Parr
- Keith Baker (Especially the book Little Green)
Things to Remember When Choosing Books and Reading to Babies
- Are the pictures large, uncluttered, colorful, and contain short simple sentences?
If your answer is yes to all of this criteria then you have found the perfect baby book!
The pictures need to be large enough to be seen by the baby because his or her eye muscles have not developed enough to view small, insignificant illustrations.
Busy, overly crowded pictures can be overwhelming to your child.
If you notice your little one is becoming fussy or looks like they may want to cry over the image, it is best to save this book for when they are older.
Bright colors are not only happy and joyful to infants, but they also appeal to their senses.
One tip I would suggest is to make sure that there are not too many colors within the pictures which may be unsettling to such young children.
Make sure that the sentences are simple and brief due to babies short attention spans.
You may notice that within just a few minutes of reading your baby may begin to become antsy and want to move around. This is perfectly fine.
Even if a child is not actually looking at the book while you are reading it does not necessarily mean that they are not paying attention to the story.
Babies are taking in quite a large amount of information and can learn at very small ages.
- Do you enjoy reading the story?
This is a critical consideration that needs to be taken into account when choosing children's literature.
If you do not like the book or its imagery, you will not give the book the justice it deserves such as hurriedly reading it to the child or reading it without any emotion.
- Is the tone of your voice pleasant and animated or monotone and stale?
One issue that many new parents face is reading the story as if they are reading to themselves.
The words often come out monotonous, dry, and boring to a young child who enjoys action, silly sounds, and higher-pitched voices.
Many experts suggest that you speak "motherese".
This term denotes the high-pitched sing-song voice which many people use when speaking with babies.
Infants find "motherese" soothing and loving.
This type of speech can easily be incorporated into daily reading by the raising and lowering of your vocal pitch, giving characters silly voices, making sounds for animals in the story such as moos or oinks, and even providing motion such as gently rocking your baby back and forth if the story talks about gentle breezes in the springtime, etc.
- Do you include props such as puppets or stuffed animals, songs, fingerplays, games, and nursery rhymes into your reading experiences?
You can easily make puppets out of old socks, paper bags, or paper shapes.
Make sure any of the items you use to decorate your creations are non-toxic, well-secured through sewing or glue, and not so small that they may be a potential choking hazard.
Simple songs such as "This Old Man" are sweet and provide a balance of music and sound which enhances the storytime and language connection.
If you do not like singing, you may use pre-recorded music.
Just make sure that the music is not too loud or contains booming or deep bass sounds which can be frightening to young babies.
Classical music can be used for bedtime and soft, perky, instrumentals or child-friendly folk music is great for storytime dances.
Fingerplays such as Grandma's Glasses pertain to movements though the use of the hands, arms, and sometimes other parts of body.
Fingerplays communicate that the body and language both have an impact on communication to the child.
Games such as pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo are ways to encourage early fine (use of hands, etc.) and gross motor skills (includes hopping, jumping).
You can also include lap bounces which involve parent and child interaction through bodily movement.
Nursery rhymes such as Hey Diddle Diddle are wonderful due to their use of short phrases and sounds which sound melodic and calming to young children.
Remember to always repeat songs, fingerplays, nursery rhymes, and games in order to give your child a sense of routine.
Make sure to repeat this every storytime.
A suggestion would be to sing an opening song every time you read a story, repeat a familiar fingerplay, and sing an ending song to signify the end of storytime.
- Are you making sure that siblings are part of the storyime experience?
The addition of a new baby or infant is often quite a transition for your older child.
Let them relish the joy of being a big brother or sister by joining in during storytime.
While they may be too young to read the story they can certainly help sing songs or manipulate a puppet during storytime reading.