6 Tricks for Choosing An Engaging Book for Your 0-1 Year Old

As a former Kindergarten and 2nd grade teacher, one of my favorite things to do is help kids fall in love with books. I’ve also had the pleasure of introducing letters, sounds, and words to them-sometimes for the first time! However, as much as I love teaching kids to read and fostering a deep sense of wonder within the pages of a book, I had (and still have) much to learn about baby and toddler literacy!

This first year of being a mom has taught me, in spite of my teaching experience, babies are a whole new game when it comes to reading engagement. I had a tall stack of books to expose to my little munchkin. Books I was sure he would love because, after all, classic children’s literature is always appealing…right?


Here are a few traits I’ve found helpful to look for when selecting books for my 0-1 year old. The examples I use are some of my little guy’s favorite books. These are also books that I would consider, as a former elementary reading teacher, to be rich in illustrations, vocabulary, and patterns of words. All of these elements are important to engage the littlest reader and set the stage for being a life-long bookworm.

1. The illustrations are colorful and fun.

One thing I taught my students at the beginning of every school year was that there are different ways to read books-reading the words, reading the pictures, and retelling the story. Little babies LOVE to “read” the pictures in books and the brighter the colors, the better! My little guy grins ear-to-ear when we ask him if he wants to read “Goodnight Gorilla.” HE LOVES IT! My community has a Dolly Parton reading program that you can register your child for when he or she is born. Each month, they mail you a new book-free of charge. I haven’t kept all of the books, but this one is a gem!

“Goodnight Gorilla” by Peggy Rathmann

2. The sentence structures have a predictable pattern, such as a question and then an answer.

Babies love words and sounds that they can mimic or repeat. Thus, books with words and sentences that follow the same type of pattern is often one they will enjoy and be interested in. There are MANY great books out there with predictable patterns, but some of my little one’s favorites include, “I Went Walking” by Sue Williams and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle.

3. The words sound musical through rhyming, repetition, or alliteration.

The books you read together should sound like you’re playing with the words. The language needs to be fun. “Fun words” can come from simple rhymes, words that begin with the same sound, or the rhythm of the words. It might just make you want to dance along with it!

Like this: “Flip, flap fly in the blue blue sky, where the wind blows….. wshhhhhhh”

We received this book as a gift and I fell in love with it. So did my son. I hope to buy everything that Phyllis Root has written for children because this book is brilliant. I feel like that means something coming from someone with tubs and tubs of children’s books from my classroom! ( I think I need to apply my de-cluttering nursery adventure to my classroom library now.)

“Flip Flap Fly” by Phyllis Root

4. Texture features (such as fabric, flaps to open, fur, etc.) are engaging for little hands and feet to touch and explore while reading.

Of course, anything you can touch, pull, shake, scrunch, slide, or zip is a plus for those pudgy fingers to play with. It’s a great way for babies to get exposed to different textures. My son loves this book for the textures in it (and I love that it has animals + sound + compact size for the diaper bag) and this one for the flaps and animals hiding beneath! This second book is a fun way to introduce and practice the game of “peekaboo” in book form!

5. Familiar language and vocabulary that the baby already hears in everyday conversations is used.

Just like in Kindergarten, when children hear familiar words they can connect them to new words and ideas they learn. Our brain is constantly making connections, especially your little one-year old’s. This is part of what helps little one’s learn and speak their native language by the age of 2 or 3 (for most kids). These connections help us to remember the new experiences we are having. Books that use familiar words and phrases are exciting to children-even babies. My one-year-old loves this book and I think part of it comes down to him actually understanding part of what we read. He knows where his eyes are. And his nose. And his mouth. He can do it with the book! What an exciting achievement for a one-year old. I think he feels proud when he reads it with me!

“Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?” by Karen Katz

6. Books that you can sing to your baby are comforting and predictable.

My son LOVES music and even more so when the book we are reading is a song. There is something about music that is just magical and peaceful. Joining music with the format of a book is a major winner! The Wheels on The Bus book was another free treasure from the Dolly Parton reading program!

“The Wheels On the Bus”

“Jesus Is With Me” by Debbie Anderson

I love reading with my little monkey. I wish we did it more than just once or twice a day, because when time is carved out to read together…it’s is so special.

What are your 0-1 year old’s favorite books to read with you? How often do you read to them and what time of the day? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts below. Thanks for taking the time to read and share!

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