Choosing the Right Books for Your Child

Reading books with your child is crucial to his development of language skills, and of course, literacy. But the children’s section at a bookstore or library can be daunting, with thousands of books to choose from. Luckily, there are a few simple things to look for based on your child’s developmental stage.

From Birth to Twelve Months

In the early months of life, babies are drawn to high contrast images and more than anything to human faces. Eyesight is still developing, and babies focus best at a distance of about a foot. Choose books with simple, large images with contrasting colors, especially black and white, and simple patterns. Books with a lot of close-ups of faces are a wonderful choice at this age.

After about 6 months old, your baby will start to interact a lot more with toys, people, and books too. In addition to wanting to touch books and turn pages, you will probably catch him chewing on books as well, as babies at this age explore the world with their mouths. Because your little one is now so hands – and mouth – on, look for sturdy board books that can withstand baby’s attention.

This age of learning by touch is the perfect time to introduce books with tactile features, such as a book about animals that offers fuzzy patches of fur for little hands to feel. Your baby will also start to recognize familiar images of things that are a part of his daily life, so books that include simple images of these things are a great choice.

With baby learning to sit up in the tub, this is also the age to check out bath books. Books made of waterproof materials, with simple stories and colorful images will make bath time as much about learning as it is about fun.

The Second Year

Around the time your baby smashes his first birthday cake, you will be noticing great strides in language and communication skills. At this age, the words in the book will start to become more important. Look for repetitive, rhythmic and rhyming text, and simple stories involving everyday things. Images are still important too! Look for colorful illustrations that help to tell the story, and that she can start to associate with the text.

As the second year of your child’s life unfolds, she will be learning at a very fast pace, and books are an important part of improving vocabulary skills. Books that have only a few words related to what is on the page will help her to recognize and learn the names for the objects pictured. It’s a great time to start a dialogue about the book by having her point out what she sees on the page.

Toddlers and Beyond

Further into the toddler years, your child will start to enjoy the story as much as the images. Understanding the text and being able to ask questions, point things out and even read along as familiar books are committed to memory, children at this age become truly active participants in reading. You will even start to catch her repeating the words to the story aloud while thumbing through the pages without your help. This is a great time to choose books with more involving stories. Books that address common childhood hurdles and fears are a good choice, and as her sense of humor develops, funny stories will be a hit.

Choosing the right books is not hard when you are aware of how age and development play a role in reading. With the wide selection available in bookstores and libraries, the possible choices are endless, and so is the fun you can have reading with your child. Still need a little help deciding? Take a look at this comprehensive list of the best books by age from Parents magazine.

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