One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is the love of reading. Reading is the fundamental tool that will provide your child with keys to success, not only in school, but also in life. So, what is the best way to bestow that gift? Most experts agree that it is never too soon to start. The first day home from the hospital your baby may not understand what you're saying, but they will respond to the tone of your voice and the warm closeness as you hold them and read them a story.

At birth, babies can detect light and motion. They start to focus on faces and objects between 3-6 months. Even though newborns can't focus on the pictures in a book or understand the words, they still benefit from the close cuddling and the sound of their parent's voice. When a baby starts to be able to see patterns, shapes and colors, and you read books with clear, bright pictures you are helping them develop their eyesight.

As a baby matures, the books you can read can advance as well. The pictures can be more sophisticated, and the stories can be longer. Reading together with a child not only builds a love of books, but it lets them see that reading is important to you as well.

  • There are all types of books to choose from and material created for all ages. Starting out at 0-6 month, choose books with simple large pictures and bright colors.

  • At 6-12 months, experts say to choose heavy-duty board books with pictures of other babies, familiar objects like bottles and balls and bright colors. Sturdy books are good for this age group, so they can handle them without tearing pages. Cloth or vinyl books are also good choices.

  • Starting out at 12-24 months, children will be much more hands-on and so sturdy books they can carry around are best. Books with photos are appealing, especially of children doing things like sleeping or eating. Goodnight books, books about opposites and books with just a few words on each page are good choices for this age group. Touch and feel books are also a good option.

  • 24-36 months is a good time to introduce books with simple stories. Rhyming books, alphabets, counting and shape books are also good. Along with touch and feel books introduce pop-up books and pull tab books.

  • At 3-5 years, if you've been reading to your child on a regular basis, they will start to develop tastes of their own. You can add books with more of a story and longer books that may be read every night at bedtime. Simple science books as well as books about dinosaurs, trains, cooking, friends and books about getting ready for school are great additions. Books that deal with problem solving, like fighting with a brother or sister, are popular at this age. And don't forget books with easy short text that can be memorized by your child as you read it to them over and over. They will feel like they are reading the book just like mommy or daddy.

In Dr. Seuss's book, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!" he wrote: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." The greatest gift you will ever give your children is the gift of reading.


0-3 months

  • "Peek-A-Boo" by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

  • "Blue Hat Green Hat" by Sandra Boynton

  • "I Love Colors" by Margaret Miller

  • "My First Taggies Book: I Love You" by Kaori Watanabe

6-12 months

  • "Animal Kisses" by Barney Saltzberg

  • "Rock A Bye Baby" by Jeanette Winter

  • "Binky" by Leslie Patricelli

12-24 months

  • "Pat the Bunny" by Dorothy Kunhardt

  • "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown

  • "Going To Bed Book" by Sandra Boynton

24-36 months

  • "Max Spaniel Dinosaur Hunter" by David Catrow

  • "Count With Maisy" by Lucy Cousins

  • "Eric Carle's ABC" by Eric Carle

  • "Hungry Monsters a Pop-Up Book of Colors" by Matt Mitter

3-5 years

  • Disney Storybook Collections

  • "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr.

  • Dr. Seuss Books

For more information on education and reading see John Funk's blog, Topics in Early Childhood Education.

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