Best books for a child's first 2 years

Linking Children into Literacy: Ages 0-2

Parents reading with young childrenOur twins were born 11 years ago and I wouldn't trade one of those sleepless nights spent walking a pitch dark hallway trying to sway one back to sleep before the other was to wake only 20 short minutes later. Sitting with my daughter in bed at 2am reading Pat the Bunny because it was the only thing that would stop the shrieks is a fond memory. I know those first couple years can be emotionally and physical trying. But there are ways to embrace the exhaustion and create wonderful life-long memories through an emphasis on books and reading.

The first year of life is filled with so many developmental milestones for you and your child. It's important to choose the right books to stimulate children's developing brains. At this age, board books and cloth books are wonderful! As your baby puts her hands, feet, and possibly the dog's tail into her mouth, know that books are bound to end up in those jaws too. Board and cloth books are sturdier than paper AND they can be wiped down. Cloth books can even make it into the bathtub. Within a day you'll have the book memorized, so while your baby tries to make a meal out of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you can continue with the words and paint pictures with your own facial expressions and body movements to amuse and engage your child. When your child gets tired, make a face of the hungry caterpillar or walk around like a bear from Eric Carle's Brown Bear. Sandra Boynton's Belly Button solved many problems for me while we were trying to get bottles ready. Within a week, through repetition, the twins learned where their belly buttons were and would pass the book back and forth and fall down into each others belly buttons in hysterics. I had that precious five-minute window to prepare bottles.

As your baby passes her first birthday, try books that have few words but have those beautiful, bright illustrations and interactive elements that encourage touching the pages. Keep the words simple with lots of repetition. Look for books that allow your baby to explore her sense of site with picture flaps. Children at this age still love crinkling cloth pages or pushing buttons in cardboard books that make sounds. Their sense of touch is still being explored, so continue reading books with textures. They are beginning to learn alphabet sounds so books with the same repeated words over and over are key to keeping them engaged and interacting with you and the book.

Karen Kuntz's Counting Kisses does a wonderful job with interaction, repetition, and illustrations. Children will love having you kiss their toes, nose, and fingers, and hear you counting kisses to them. Let them count kisses back to you while kissing your nose as well. Mo Willems' books, such as Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, will provide hilarious characters, scenes, and situations. They are great to start at age two and will keep you child entertained through first grade!

After your baby grows into toddler books, be sure to pack away some of your favorites from the first two years. Even when your baby turns ten, she'll love looking back at these memories you've created. You'll still be kissing her toes and arguing with her about why Mo Willems' pigeon can't stay up late.

Sherri GalegoSherri Galego founded Linked into Literacy (a division of Co-Marketing Plus, Inc) and the U.Fund Start U.Reading youth literacy series over a decade ago. The idea was developed from a passion to provide children with authentic reading, listening and speaking opportunities designed to enhance their imaginations and set a foundation for education. Start U.Reading provides parents with early childhood literacy skills to build a path for success when children enter and progress through the elementary school years.