Choosing the Perfect Book for Your Child – by Debbie Hatswell

Choosing a book for the little people in your life can be a touch overwhelming. There are so many books published every year that it can be difficult to decide which ones are going to be loved. And when books are loved, they are REALLY loved by children. They want to hear them again and again and again.

Reading aloud to your kids is a great investment of your time. You are creating fond memories for them, you are bonding with them and you are helping with their literacy skills. Win, win, win! We enjoy seeing teenagers and grown adults recognising a book from their childhood like they have found a long lost best friend!

We are often asked questions about how to choose the right book for a baby, a toddler or a pre-schooler. Here are some tips to help you.

Books for Babies

It is never too soon to start reading to your baby and experts agree that you should start this as soon as possible. You might not know however that new babies can’t really see colours as their vision is still developing. That is why it is best to choose books with simple, highly contrasting pictures. Babies love pictures of faces and hearing the sound of your voice.  Rhyming books are great because rhymes can be quite soothing and may even help you settle your baby. A good choice is a book about things your baby is becoming familiar with in their world like balls, toys, household objects or animals.

Naturally, babies will try and explore books in their own way – putting them in their mouths, chewing on them. This is all part of the fun. That is why Board books are a great choice for this age group. These are made of heavy duty cardboard and can take tough and messy treatment. Cloth books that can be easily washed are also a good choice.

Once your baby is older than 6 months books with textures become really appealing with lots of things to touch and feel.

Books for Toddlers

Bed time stories are a great choice for this age group, particularly if you want a familiar routine with some wind down time.  You can start to introduce lift the flap books at this age, like the Spot series.

A great way to help you discover books for your children is to keep an eye on the annual book awards lists. The ones to look out for are the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), the YABBA awards, and some of the international awards lists like the Greenaway Medal (UK) or the Caldecott Medal (USA).

We are a big believer in reading a books together as you are dealing with a first time experience like going to the dentist, moving to a big bed or even toilet training. Reading a book together about a milestone event can help your child understand what to expect and can start a discussion about a situation they are dealing with.

Rhyming books are also a great choice for this age group. They will help your child learn the words by them by heart and they will enjoy guessing the word to come. Keep an eye out for books by Julia Donaldson or Aaron Blabey which tend to have great rhyme and rhythm.

As a parent, you want to give your kids a great start on their education so you could also keep an eye out for books that start to explore both the ABC’s and 123’s. Please don’t keep it all educational though, a love of reading is best encouraged though by reading stories they love, about whatever they are into, often!

It is important to keep your books where your toddler can get at them so they know that it is ok to pick up a book and gaze at the pictures. It is also a good idea to let them choose their own book for story time too.

Books for Pre-schoolers

Children this age have slightly longer attention spans and picture books can continue to help them make sense of the world around them. Pre-schoolers love books about children like them doing things that they do. This might be as simple as a book about a trip to the park or about going to a birthday party. Pre-schoolers will be developing their sense of humour, so funny books are a great idea for this age group. You can even introduce books that have positive value messages about sharing, friendship or being true to yourself. Children of this age seem to particularly like books with surprises at the end.

This is a good age to be reading books about a milestones or challenges they are approaching, like about starting Kindergarten or School, about being a good friend, and about bouncing back from a challenging situation.

If you are the one doing the reading aloud, don’t be scared to choose books that appeal to both your child and yourself. After all, you will be the one reading it over again and again and again! Your feelings about a book can have an influence on your child.  Most picture books are 32 pages and have been designed to read in one sitting.  If you find your child’s attention span is longer than this then maybe read a handful, or you could move onto chapter books.

This pre-school age is the time when their little personalities and language skills are really developing and you can start to choose books based on what they are currently obsessed with. It might be dinosaurs, or trucks or fairies. Reading lots of books together about the things they are into will help encourage a love of books and reading.

How do you choose books for your little one?

Debbie Hatswell is the Founder and Directory of Story Mama. Story Mama is an online children’s bookstore featuring a huge range of carefully curated, parent recommended, high quality books for children ages 0-8. You can shop online by age, by interest, by award winners or even by milestone. Find out more here. 

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  • Lara

    Great suggestions, Debbie! I never actually thought of checking book awards! But many of my favourite picture books have been New York Times bestsellers.

    My toddler is an avid reader, and we’ve been reading together since day one; it’s such a wonderful bonding experience and I really feel it’s fostering a love of learning.

    I’ve got a post on my own blog that lists some of our favourites; mums who are looking for some fun new reading material for their little ones might wanna check it out:

    Local libraries are also a wonderful way to find out about picture books that you might not have seen otherwise; or book-swapping with friends once your little one has got tired of his/her own books and feels like something new.

  • Nancy

    As a book lover, sometimes I find it quite difficult to choose a book that could make my child interested. Your suggestions are really hepful.

  • Anna

    I tend to pick books for my 3 year old and newbie that I enjoy the Rythmn, pictures and story.
    If I enjoy the book, I find my enthusam shows in my reading and my toddler stay more attentive and finds it more enjoyable.
    New favourite is ‘my bum has a crack’. (3 year old is a big bum/toliet humour fan because it’s just funny)