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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Rhyme is prime.
6. Make some noise!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.