Choosing great books for babies and toddlers

These are just some of the things we think about when we are choosing great books for children. Most of these books will be available at your public library. Your friendly local librarian will be able to help you find a copy.

Babies like...

Books for baby hands

Light, sturdy books are perfect for baby to hold.

The book should not be so tiny that the pictures are hard to see, or so big that you can’t fit both baby and book on your lap.

A baby book doesn't have to be a board book - there are some sturdy, wipe-clean paperbacks available.

Colourful bright pictures on a white background

Check that the pictures actually match the words… it's surprising how often they don’t.

Pictures should be clear and  identifiable, even if they are not familiar.

Things to touch and feel

These make reading an interactive experience for the baby.

Fun textures, mirrors and cut-outs help to reinforce shared reading as a nurturing, pleasurable time for you and baby.

Check for durability and ease of use by tiny fingers.

Nursery rhymes, songs and lullabies

Jiggle or bounce baby as you sing or chant these rhymes. This helps babies to enjoy their rhythm.

Babies and toddlers love repetition!

Most popular nursery rhymes are mini-stories. We meet the characters, experience a burst of action and come down to earth with a definite ending.

Stories about baby's daily life and the world around them

Babies love to see other babies, and their own lives reflected in books.

Better Beginnings Books

These two books from Better Beginnings tick all the boxes!

They feature Western Australian babies and were created especially for the Better Beginnings program.

Toddlers like...

A simple story with few characters,
a definite beginning, gentle action
and a satisfying end.

The characters can be human, animal or toy but must be identifiable to the reader and endearing to the child.

Read the story through yourself : is it too long? Too boring? Seem pointless?  If you find it boring don't feel that you have to read it.

Repetitive catchy phrases to encourage anticipation and participation

Repetition helps build memory.

It gives a child power to predict what will happen next.

Concept books  (E.g. colours, numbers)

Pictures should be clear; photographs are ideal.

Pointing and naming is just for fun – it is not meant to be a reading lesson!

Look for books with good grouping or linking of the items pictured; this helps make more to talk about.

Longer rhymes, poems or songs

Rhyme and rhythm are important.

As well as making reading enjoyable, they build the ability to predict words. This will be invaluable when your child starts to read for themselves.

Beautifully drawn, painted or photographed pictures

The key to enjoying a book is to take pleasure in looking at the pictures as you read.

At the library, let your child choose - they may introduce you to new ways of looking.

These books are from our 30 Books To Read Before You're 3 brochure.

How many have you read?

Twitter Updates

I always knew reading to my kids was important, but this has opened my eyes to how important and how much.

I tell stories in Vietnamese and read to my children in English.  I only started reading English after receiving Better Beginnings. 

One mother reads with her four year old every afternoon after school now.  She said without these books, they would not have any to read. 
Teacher, Remote Community School

I always knew reading to my kids was important, but this has opened my eyes to how important and how much.

I think it’s been a wonderful initiative.  I feel sure it’s going to benefit both the children and parents and develop links with the library.


It’s wonderful to have support across the community emphasising the importance of reading and language development. 
Community Health Nurse

…I never thought of reading to my baby.  Better Beginnings has really boosted my confidence.

Better Beginnings gave me confidence. I know reading is an everyday tool and teaching my children will help them be more successful in life.