The Best Books To Read To Babies To Enhance Language Development!

There are literally thousands of books for babies.  With so many to choose from, which are the best books to read to babies?

And, why is it important to read to a baby?  If you want to know the answer to this question click here!

I will answer this question not by picking out a bunch of specific books, but rather by grouping books into categories.  Based on these categories, you can select your own books.

So that you aren’t too overwhelmed, I’ll also include a few of my favorite books in each category.

And of course I will throw in a bit of information on language development where applicable!

Speaking about language development, I need to make you aware of a pet peeve of mine.  I really do not like books for babies that use incorrect grammar, or are written the way a young child would speak.  The whole point of reading books to your little one is to facilitate language development.  So why read a book that uses incorrect grammar?  It’s also how I feel about speaking to a baby this way.

Now that I have got that off my chest, let’s get started.

There are many types of materials available for baby books since they need to be durable.  You can choose from board books, cloth books, vinyl/plastic books and indestructible books!

The books in the categories I will be discussing will come in a variety of these materials!  For more information about the books I have listed or to purchase one, click on the book title link or image!

This article contains affiliate links.  This means that if you purchase something through one of the links, I will receive a small commission (at no cost to you).  This is how I am able to keep this site up and running!

Repetitive Phrase Books

I used repetitive phrase books regularly in my language therapy sessions with toddlers who were late talkers.  From a language development perspective, these books are excellent for learning single words and simple phrases.

Until your baby starts vocalizing and using a few words, you will simply read these kinds of books.  The sentences are typically quite basic and short (if they aren’t, feel free to improvise and shorten them).  Remember, a child needs to hear a word hundreds of times before saying the word himself.

Once your baby is over 12 months, start omitting one of the repeated words and see if she will either fill in the word (it might not sound like the actual word), vocalize or gesture.

A fabulous and well known repetitive phrase book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle.  If you aren’t familiar with it, the lines that repeat are “_____ ______ what do you see?” and “I see a ______ looking at me”.  The blank underlines are for the animal names that are used in the book.  I have underlined “see” and “me” as these are the words you would leave out and see if your little one can fill them in with a word, vocalization or gesture.

When reading a book such as Brown Bear, use gestures with your words whenever possible.  For example, each time you say the word “see”, point to your eyes.  When you say “me” point to yourself.  That way if your baby/toddler isn’t saying any words when you pause and wait, maybe she will point to her eyes for “see” and herself for “me.

play activities for a 1 year old read repetitive books

Some other amazing repetitive line books that are simple include:

Blue Hat, Green Hat (Sandra Boynton) – The repeating word in this book is “oops”.  Little ones find this really funny and love filling it in!

best books to read to babies repetitive lines blue hat green hat

Just Like Daddy (Frank Asch) – The repeating phrase in this book is “Just like Daddy”, however you could only omit the word “daddy”.

best books to read to babies repetitive lines just like daddy

For a complete list of repetitive phrase books click here.

Rhyming Books

Did you know that the ability to rhyme is a great emergent literacy skill?  And most young children actually enjoying hearing rhymes (including nursery rhymes) and making up silly rhyming words themselves.

Many books for babies include rhymes.  As with the repetitive phrase books, you can start omitting a word here and there (one in a pair of rhyming words, e.g. sun-run) as your baby gets older to see if he will fill in the blank.

Sandra Boynton was one of my children’s favorite authors.  Her books are short, catchy and full of rhymes.

Here are just a few that you will want for your baby’s first library!

Pajama Time                               The Going To Bed Book               Snuggle Puppy

best books to read to babies rhyming Pajama Time      best books to read to babies rhyming Going to bed book   best books to read to babies rhyming snuggle puppy

Picture Only Books

Books with only pictures and no words are great for babies.  Some picture books simply show the picture of a noun (or a few) on each page, while others are more of a story, but without the words.  Picture books allow the parent/caregiver to make up their own story.  As your baby gets older and starts using words, he can label what he sees, answer questions, or make up his own story!

Here are some examples of picture only books:

Mama and Baby (Kaaren Pixton)       A Ball For Daisy (Chris Raschka)         Wave (Suzy Lee)

best books to read to babies picture only books indestructibles mama and baby        best books to read to babies picture only books a ball for daisy              best books to read to babies picture only books wave

First Words Books

These books typically are organized by category (e.g. food, toys, animals, etc.), or color (all read things on a page, all blue items on another, etc.).  Each page contains a few pictures of common items within a particular category.  The written label of the word is often found above or beneath the picture.

First words books are nice to work on pointing and joint attention as well as labeling of objects.  When your baby is a bit older (12 months or more) you can ask questions like “where is the _____?”  However, you can do this with just about any book.

I wouldn’t focus too much on these types of books as they fall into the same category as flash cards.  I do not believe a baby or young child truly learns from flash cards.  However, these are still books and will help introduce your little one to concepts such as how to hold a book, turn pages, etc.  So there is nothing wrong with having one or 2 of these types of books in your baby’s collection!

Here are a few examples of First words books:

TotMart Baby Activity Soft Book – this book is made of cloth and has a handle with beads on it.  This makes it nice to give to your baby to explore with her hands and mouth!

best books to read to babies first words books Totmart soft book

Gibby and Libby Die Cut Board Book                 Baby Babble

best books to read to babies first words books Gibby and Libby Die-Cut Board Book                     best books to read to babies first words books indestructibles baby babble

You can also quite easily make your own First Words book.  I did this with my daughter.  Simply take a few pictures of common objects you have around the house (e.g ball, keys, chair, blanket, bottle/cup, etc.), print them out and put them in a small pocket style photo album (most dollar stores have these).

Personalized Books

These books are becoming much more popular now.  There weren’t really many around when my kids were little.  You could buy some books that had pockets where you could insert a picture of your child, but that was about as personal as it would get.

Now there are companies such as Put Me In The Story and I See Me that allow you to make a personalized book for your baby.  These kinds of books make great gifts as well!

Both Put Me In The Story and I See Me offer a variety of books from “Welcome to the World” to Goodnight Stories and many more.  You can also get products such as personalized growth charts and books for older children!

Make sure to check them out!

250x250 ; 6/23/16    Visit!

I hope I have been able to help you discover the best books to read to babies from a language development perspective. But of course, any book is great!

Related Reading

daycare vs preschool Best Learning Toys For Babies why read to a baby What is joint attention


  1. Alec Terry

    Hi there Tanya,

    I think that you have put together a really great site here. There is always a huge number of people looking for help when it comes to their kids.

    Also, really happy to see the Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? made it on your list. That was one of my favorite books as a kid growing up.

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Alec,

      Thanks for your comment! Brown Bear Brown Bear should be on every child’s library!

  2. Shireen

    Thank you for this post. I am a mother of a 2 1/2 year old and I have been searching for books to help her with word pronunciation, increasing vocabulary and tap into her imagination a bit. I went through book stores and online stores but it just left me confused.

    I love that you categorized the books for easier selection. Question though, I notice you mention books for babies. What age group do you recommend these books?

    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Shireen,

      Thanks for your comment. Although the title of the article is The Best Books To Read To Babies, you can certainly read these books to your 2.5 year old! Repetitive phrase books are always great for increasing vocabulary and working on sentence structure. Try not to worry too much about pronunciation with your daughter at this point. It is normal for children to not pronounce words properly at this age. I would focus more on expanding her vocabulary at this point!

      Hope that helps!


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