Reading to babies of all ages is super important. But what kinds of books do you read to newborn babies who are still young to fully engage with a story?
After raising 5 babies, I know a thing or two about what newborns like. Here’s some picks that have either made it into our own home library or that I know would be great options for newborns.
The newborn stage is a great time to start a reading routine! Get comfy and read baby a book to wind down before nap or bedtime (or both!). As your little one grows, this routine will help them unwind and know what’s coming next.
Tips for Choosing Books for Newborn Babies
When choosing books for newborn babies, there’s a few things to take into consideration. Babies are only newborns for a very short time! You want a great library of books that stimulate your new baby, but also that will grow with them as they become an older baby and toddler.
Babies should be read to at least once a day, if not more frequently. Even if a newborn can’t be engaged with the book itself, studies have shown that reading anything to babies has a benefit. But books that are made for babies and kids will have the most benefits.
Here’s what to look for:
Simple or Repetitive Language
Baby books are simple so they can hold baby’s attention. A newborn isn’t going to care, but as they get older it will make a difference. Look for books that either have one word on each page or make use of simple rhymes.
Nursery rhymes, poetry, and rhythmic sing-song type books are really good for this age group.
Simple Illustrations and High Contrast
Babies can’t focus as easily on busy artwork, instead preferring simple pictures. Newborns have poor eyesight. High contrast colours, especially black, white, and red, are easiest for them to see. That’s why you’ll see a few black and white books on this list.
Another thing babies really like looking at is faces!
It won’t be long before your newborn baby is grabbing at everything in sight. Board books are perfect for babies because they’re durable and (mostly) baby proof. Which means no ripped pages or chewed corners.
There are also baby books that double as toys. They sometimes crinkle or have other textural stimulation that babies love.
Touch and feel books are also great for babies as they grow. Even young babies can get some stimulation from you helping them feel the different textures.
Some Kind of Developmental Benefit
Books are great for babies for multiple reasons. Reading any book will help introduce them to new vocabulary, stimulate language development, and present an opportunity for bonding. But some books can add extra developmental skills to the mix too!
Those books of words are great for older babies. Newborns and young babies will do best with simple word association books like the ones with a single word on each page.
Like with vocabulary, early literacy and math books can help baby’s rote skills develop. While it won’t get your infant counting, you can lay the foundation now to make learning easier later. It’s not unusual for babies who are read to frequently to be able to rote count or recite the alphabet at an earlier age.
Books are a great way to demonstrate more abstract ideas to babies and young kids. By reading books that model social interactions or aspects of your baby’s life it will help them develop these concepts. These are the building blocks of their social skills that they’re rapidly learning in the early years.
Auditory or Visual Stimulation
It’s important for babies to see and hear plenty of different things as they develop. Sing song and rhyming books are a great way to give babies something different to listen to rather than usual conversation. Hearing these differences in speech, tone, and language are valuable!
Visually, a newborns’ life is mostly what’s about a foot in front of them. Just good enough to see you face! Board books with high contrast images or bright pictures will give newborns different things to take in, which in turn helps their brain development.
Books That Grow With Your Baby
I mentioned it before, but really you have no idea how quickly the newborn stage will pass. It won’t be long at all before baby is flipping through board book pages themselves, babbling away “reading”.
Choose books that are great for newborns, but can also be entertaining for older babies and toddlers too. Good quality, classic books can be read over and over and still entertain. In fact, repetition like this is actually great for kids.
As your child grows, you can use some of the more “infant” books in new ways – point out the names of the animals, have your toddler identify colours on the page, or use them as early readers.
Sometimes my 6 year old twins still want to read old board books!
Something You Enjoy
You’re the one reading the book, so make sure you choose books you enjoy reading. While there might be some benefits from one book to the next, overall it’s just important to read to your child. Vary your library; some educational and stimulating books, some books that are more for you.
Not only will this make it more fun for you, sharing books you enjoy with your baby is a great way to foster a love of reading that will last.
Trying to read more yourself? Here’s how to read more books.
The Best Books for Newborn Babies
I’m actually surpirsed this book is still around, if I’m being honest. I had it for my kids and they loved it. Very cute, high contrast images and shiny pictures to help draw baby’s attention.
Art For Babies
It’s about time baby got cultured! Budding sophistication aside, the art in this book was masterfully chosen to stimulate baby’s visual senses with simple illustrations and contrasting colours.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
This classic is ready for the next generation and you won’t be disappointed. Repetitive and rhythmic, it won’t be long before your child is joining in as you chant.
Visual Quiet Book
Cloth books are great for babies once they get to that “chew on everything” stage. They’re also a lot softer when one comes careening through the air at your face. Trust me on this one. As for the book itself, besides the stimulating visuals there’s some interactive surprises in there for little ones to discover.
Babies love looking at other babies! This book, with cute illustrations and simple language, introduces a variety of verbs and adjectives that make sense to the world of infants.
Love You Forever
This classic still gets me teary-eyed after all these years of reading it. A love letter to the bond between parent and child, you’ll enjoy reading it as much as your baby will love listening. A little more wordy than other books, but the mix of story and song breaks it up nicely.
I Kissed the Baby!
Each page has a high contrast picture of a parent caring for the baby version. A great introduction to animals and their babies that reinforces interpersonal relationships and family bonding.
Books like this are great at showing newborn babies who they are and what their place is in the world. With cute pictures and rhyming text, your baby will enjoy seeing some fellow babies doing all the things babies do best.
Baby Montessori Boxed Set
Montessori principles including keeping things simple and having kids figure things out on their own. Books like this are great for both reading to baby and independent play, both of which are important to child development. The visuals are great for newborns too!
An ode to the morning, I’m Up introduces babies to all the wonderful things that happen in the mornings. The birds are up, the pups are up! And thanks to baby, the sleepy parents are up too.
Mother Goose Treasury
There’s a reason nursery rhymes haven’t died out, even as we have access to so much new media. They’re just perfect for babies and young kids! This isn’t a board book, but it is a great anthology filled with rhymes, poems, and stories you can read to your baby.
My First Book of Colors and Shapes
It goes without saying that books like this are great for early education and math skills. Although it’s more geared at toddlers, the simple illustrations are great for babies of all ages. You’ll be surprised to see how much baby can learn from books like this!
Pat the Bunny
Another classic that every home library needs, Pat the Bunny is a perfect first book for babies. The touch and feel elements in each are perfect for sensory stimulation and keeping young babies engaged with the simple stories of each book.
With gorgeous illustrations that are perfect for a newborn’s developing eyesight, Look, Look! encourages baby to explore new themes on each page. Simple enough for the youngest infants, but with expansive vocabulary (“flowers bloom”) that will grow with your child.
This classic is as much a work of art as it is a book. Each page only has one word, but the words tell a complex story of rabbits’ natural lives avoiding predators, eating, and even snuggling too.
See Touch Feel – A First Sensory Book
Sensory play is great for babies, but not always possible especially with newborns. Books like this can help with early sensory development by exposing babies to plenty of textures and sensations in a safe way.
I can’t have a list of books for newborns without including Goodnight Moon! This classic is simple, poetic, and will forever be a treasured classic.
Faces (Baby’s Very First Book)
This cute cloth book shows newborn babies the thing they like best: faces. Not only is the book cute and fun for babies to play with, it also has an unbreakable mirror so your little one can examine their own face too.
On the Night You Were Born
I prefer secular books, but this one makes it on the list because I love the lyrical wording in On the Night You Were Born. Books like this are great to tell your children, right from birth, how special they are.
It Had to Be You
This book is illustrated in ways that even newborns will enjoy looking at the imagery. Each page is part of a love poem to your new baby with phrases like, “of all the babies that are born, it had to be you.”
Want some more book ideas? Check out Books About Diversity For Kids.
Books Are Great Gift Ideas for Newborn Babies
If you’re trying to find a baby shower gift or a present for a new baby, but don’t know what to get, you can almost never go wrong with a book. In fact, the more books a baby has, the better! They’re a nice idea for parents who have everything or a second baby shower.
Books are important for newborn babies even if they’re not old enough to understand them yet! Plus building a home library and reading routines at an early age means you’ll read to your child more often and have a better chance of raising a lifelong reader.