This post was written for Day 1 of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. The overall theme for this year's Share a Story is Literacy: The First Five Years. Day 1, hosted by Maria Burel at Once Upon a Story, focuses on literacy for infants.
Having had an infant in my home relatively recently, I thought that I would suggest some titles to give as gifts to new babies (showers, baptisms, etc.). These titles could also be used by expectant parents to help create a baby book registry (something that I found incredibly useful three years ago - we still maintain ours here). I have limited myself to books that are in print and readily available (at least online), and I have tried to avoid books that are so obvious that you can assume that people already have them.
Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces by Jane Wattenberg (Chronicle). Babies LOVE to look at photos of other babies. I prefer the BeginSmart Baby Faces book to this one, but that one is apparently out of print. Still, this one can be folded out and set up in baby's crib or pack-n-play, for hours of baby viewing. The babies on one side are smiling. The babies on the other side are crying.
Peek-A-Who by Nina Laden (Chronicle). This is a fun board book with cutouts, and a sort of mirror at the end. It's sized for very young children. It was one of the first books that my daughter requested (over and over again), and eventually became much-chewed.
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman (Putnam). This one is admittedly quite well-known. But it would be a travesty not to have it as part of a baby's collection, so is worth the risk of duplication. Goodnight Gorilla is a wordless picture book, full of entertaining details to reward repeat readings (of which there are sure to be many).
Baby Love: A Board Book Gift Set (All Fall Down; Clap Hands; Say Goodnight; Tickle, Tickle) by Helen Oxenbury (Little Simon). This set of four tiny board books (about 4" square), complete with a slipcase, was a huge hit with Baby Bookworm. The books only have a few words each, but feature Oxenbury's engaging illustrations of multicultural babies. You can also buy these books in larger board book editions, and those are nice to have, too. But these small editions lend themselves to very early "reading", as well as entertaining efforts to put the books back into the box.
Also illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, written by Mem Fox (Harcourt), is a must-have for baby's library. Available in traditional hardcover and padded board book editions, this book is a lovely, rhythmic read-aloud, populated with Oxenbury's round-faced, sturdy babies in various settings.
While we're looking at picture books about babies, there are two from Karen Katz's large collection that I think are particularly good choices as baby gifts. Ten Tiny Babies (Margaret K. McElderry) is a bouncy counting book that focuses on many of the things that slightly older babies like to do (dance, run, etc.), and then works its way into being a bedtime book ("all ten babies are fast asleep. Goodnight babies."
The Babies on the Bus (Henry Holt) features the same basic collection of babies, but puts them on a bus ride for a preschool field trip. The text is a variant on the song The Wheels on the Bus, more applicable to babies (they cry, they fall asleep, etc.). Even the bus driver is a baby (and takes a nap during the ride - not quite sure how that's supposed to work, but kids find it funny). I think it's good to have some books that encourage parents to sing to their children, and this is a fun one. My review.
Another baby-centric book that toddlers will want to read over and over again is Everywhere Babies, written by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Marla Frazee (HMH Books). There's a nice, oversized lap board book edition that is perfect for reading with toddlers. Each page focused on a different thing that babies do (or have done to them), like being kissed, or eating. Within each page are either a series of small vignettes showing different families, or a larger picture showing diverse families in the same setting (e.g. a picture of all the ways babies are carried on a busy sidewalk). My review.
Also illustrated by Marla Frazee, and not to be missed, is All the World by Liz Scanlon Garton (Beach Lane Books). This 2010 Caldecott Honor book is pure poetry, soothing to read, and full of the same detailed illustrations that make Everywhere Babies such fun. It's uplifting, too. Among the best that picture books have to offer, I think.
And last, but not least, I recommend Bubble Trouble, by Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar (Clarion), available in hardcover or board book editions. Children won't really appreciate until they are at least two, but it is SUCH fun to read aloud that it's worth making sure people have a copy early on. My review.
I could go on all day. You can't go wrong with Sandra Boynton, or Kevin Henkes, or Mo Willems, or the Carl books by Alexandra Day. The DK Peekaboo series is full of fun titles for babies, as is Robert Priddy's First 100 Words (etc.) series. And of course it's always fun for parents to receive copies of classic books that they loved as children, like Where the Wild Things Are.
The important thing, I think, is not to be afraid to give people books for their babies. Yes, there's a risk that they might already have the book that you choose. Despite my handy Amazon registry, I still received three or four books that were duplicates. But it's not like I minded. Hmmm... An extra copy of a great book. Do I keep it, in case we lose ours? Or do I give it away to someone I love? A win either way. And I LOVE remembering who each book came from, as we read our favorite titles now.
When I was younger, I sometimes hesitated to buy books for babies because I wasn't sure if that's what people wanted or expected. But my feeling is this. If you're giving books to people who love books, then they'll be happy to have them (even if one or two might be duplicates with books that they already have). And if you're giving books to people who don't love books, and who aren't thinking of a baby shower or christening as an opportunity to build their baby's library, well then, you can really make a difference.
Buy some of the books that I suggested above. Or buy books that your own children loved, or that you loved as a child. But if you have babies in your life, and you have occasion to buy them gifts, buy them books. Give them a gift that will last a lifetime.
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).