How To Choose Great Board Books

Whether it be for your own child or a gift, choosing board books is not always as easy as it may seem. Unfortunately, some great older kid books get made into board books that shouldn’t be and some books are created specifically for babies that are mindless and dreadful to read.

Here are my top 10 tips for selecting board books for babies and toddlers along with a few of my favorite book suggestions.

1. Stick to few words.

from Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward

They don’t have to be wordless or single words (which can be tough to read aloud), but you definitely want to veer away from paragraphs. Board books are for babies and toddlers and neither want to stare at the same page for a long amount of time while you read a novel to them. It is good to help increase their attention span by challenging them to sit still longer, but at the same time you don’t want to overly frustrate them and especially to associate bad feelings with reading. Keep it fun and always gauge how they handle different lengths. Examples: Sandra Boynton books, Cookie’s Week, & Sheila Ray’s Peppermint Stick.

2. Contrast is best.

from One Red Sun by Ezra Jack Keats

For some reason, we get the notion that babies should be surrounded by pastels and light contrast, but neither of those are all that appealing to developing eyes. Bold is better for little ones. Black and white is actually the most engaging for babies. Examples: One Red Sun, Baby Animals Black and White, and Black on White.

3. Mix up the genre.

from I am a Bunny by Ole Risom

Counting books are great, but you or another adult are going to be reading these books again and again. You’ll want some variety to keep it fun. Try books with a story, books about colors, books in first person, books in third person, counting books, rhyming books, etc…. This also introduces the child to variety and will broaden their minds, interests, and vocabulary. Examples: I am a Bunny; Is Your Mama a Llama?; and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?.

4. Look for faces.

from Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowley

Babies love facial expressions. Pick books with real people close up, other babies, even cartoon people with great faces. Example: Mrs. Wishy Washy, Baby Faces, and Where is Baby’s Belly Button?

5. Rhyme is prime.

from Time for Bed by Mem Fox

Rhymes are fun to read, fun to hear, and if written well, won’t be as tiresome as others. Great example: Hippos Go Berserk! and Time For Bed.

6. Make some noise!

from Peek-a Who? by Nina Laden

Not the book, you. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not in any way suggesting books with sound, I’m saying books that encourage the reader and child to make sounds. Examples: , Peek-a Who?; Mr. Brown Can Moo, can You?; and Moo, Baa, La La La!

7. Add variety in book shape.

from Baby Animals by Gyo Fujikawa

This one is super simple, but can add so much to the reading experience. Some of my favorites, and my daughter’s, are the tall thin board books because the picture is a different size. Example: Baby Animals, Growing Vegetable Soup, and Animal Sounds.

8. Introduce the child to great art.

from Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Contrary to popular belief, great children’s books are not easy to create. Even decent ones are difficult. Editing text ruthlessly enough to have few words but still carry a marvelous storyline is a task to be trifled with. And the addition of beautiful pictures in various forms is something to hunt for. Choose variety and beauty. Examples: Prayer for a Child (a Caldecott winner), Charley Harper 123s, A Book of Sleep, & Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink.

9. Include diversity.

from Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Start young at introducing your child to the world around them including every race and color possible. It doesn’t need to be a book specifically about race, just look for artists who include variety in their characters. (This is not always an easy task as the picture book world leans heavily on the Caucasian end in art. So grab great ones when you find them!) Examples: Whose Knees Are These?, Babies, and My Friends.

10. Pick what YOU want to read.

from The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord

A good rule of thumb about all children’s books are to read a book that is relatively interesting to you as well. This won’t always be the case and you’ll get tired of books faster than they will, but for the most part, a book that is enjoyable to you, will be to them. Remember you are helping the child’s mind develop and introducing them to wonderful stories, humor, unique counting, stunning images… that is where true love of reading comes from. Challenge them and enjoy reading yourself! After all, picture books are often created more for adults. Examples: Pride & Prejudice, The Giant Jam Sandwich, and It’s a Little Book.

Have you discovered any favorite board books for babies and toddlers? I confess that I used to find board books to be annoying and unnecessary, but have slowly warmed up to them in their wonderful sturdiness, comparative inexpensiveness, and small format.

5 thoughts on “How To Choose Great Board Books

    1. Hi Nina! Thanks for reading. I would love to do an email subscribe and will look into it pronto. We’re still getting this baby off the ground. Will let you know as soon as it is available!

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  1. Really like the photos you include in your posts! Since I’m a visual learner, I need pictures to show me examples of your explanation. Your variety of ideas when looking for a good board book has opened my eyes to what is available. I chuckled at the variety of sizes I should consider! Liking neat and pretty bookcases, I’ve avoided the different sizes, but realize it is this variety that would attract little ones to my reading corner! Now, I’ll stretch and reach for those tall and skinny books! How fun!

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  2. Love your blog, your great pictures of choice books, and your enthusiasm! Thanks for creating this blog. Let me know how I can follow! I’ll also place a link to my blog: Oh, the Places We See!

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  3. Very thoughtful advice! A few of my son’s favourites include: Each Peach Pear Plum; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?; Goodnight Moon; We’re Going on a Bear Hunt; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; The Snowy Day, The Little Engine That Could; Z is for Zamboni; Olivia; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Jamberry. My only additional suggestion would be to include a couple real-life picture books. My First Farm: Let’s Get Working is one we had to bring everywhere we went.

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