Every night before I put my one and a half year old son to bed we sit together and read a few books. Early in his life the book hardly mattered, but the older he’s gotten the more particular he’s become. A few favorites will always keep his attention, while others are tossed to the side after only a few turns of the page. A few he closes immediately with a terse reply of “no no”.
In the time I’ve been reading to him I’ve noticed a handful of commonalities that make a great book for kids that are around one year of age. Here’s what I look for when picking out books to buy:
- Thick pages
Kids love to turn pages with their own little hands. Thin and flimsy pages make that a difficult task. Look for stiff pages which are easy to grasp and will stand up to the wear and tear they’ll put on ‘em.
- Only a little text on each page
A long paragraph of text can get boring and hard to follow. A short sentence or two is easy to connect with a picture and ensures that the lulls between interactivity—turning the page—are short.
- Simple drawings
It can be hard to know what makes a good or bad picture for the little ones. The best I can gather is that a couple of characters and a simple background work best. As you’ll see below there are exceptions to this but it’s a good rule of thumb.
These characteristics appear in many of my son’s favorite books. These are the eight books that he’s loved the most as he’s begun a lifetime of reading.
Little Blue Truck (Alice Schertle)
No other book has captured my son’s attention for as long as Little Blue Truck. The importance of friendship takes center stage in this beautifully illustrated story of trucks, animals, and a drive down a country road. With endearing characters and enjoyable dialog this book is the cornerstone for any one year olds’ library.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox)
Consider this the Benetton of childrens’ books. With its sweet story about the universality of our fingers and toes it’ll teach your little one that underneath our skin color, our clothing, and our different cultures we’re really all the same. The wonderfully illustrated babies will also keep your child fascinated and pointing towards each one.
Owl Babies (Martin Waddell)
This is the story of three siblings who wake up to find their mother is missing. I won’t spoil the ending for you but rest assured there’s a happy reunion with Mommy. A quick read with thick pages, I can always count on Owl Babies to capture my son’s attention.
Chick n’ Pug (Jennifer Sattler)
This is a story about Chick who is looking for an adventure and Pug who is just looking for his next nap. A fun read for any thespian parents as you’ll have to master a couple accents in order to sell the story. My son couldn’t get enough of this book, for about a month. It even keep him entertained for the majority of a two hour flight.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (James Dean)
The moral of this story is clear, “keep on keepin’ on.” Pete the Cat, an all around groovy feline, doesn’t let life’s missteps bring him down. While this book does have thin pages it never fails to grab my son’s attention.
Press Here (Herve Tullet)
Bursts of laughter ensued the first dozen times my son read Herve Tullet’s innovative book. This interactive story lets you (or your child) press, shake, and blow colored circles around the pages. This truly charming book has also taken a leap into the modern era with an iPhone app (sadly unavailable in the US iTunes store), which it seems perfectly suited for.
Hippos Go Berserker! (Sandra Boyton)
You can’t go wrong with any book by Sandra Boyton. The pages are thick, the stories move along with rhyme and sing-song, and the characters are memorable. Hippos Go Berserker! is a personal favorite due to the comedic premise of a bunch of hippos getting together for a house party.
Peedie (Gossie & Friends) (Olivier Dunrea)
My son had a short but passionate relationship with Peedie, a small gosling who loses his red baseball cap. The little details in each illustration captured his attention as he’d ask about an animal or an apple tucked away in the drawing.
I plan on reading to my son as long as he’ll let me. Now I just need to find books that will keep him entertained for the next twenty years. If you’ve got any recommendations, leave them in the comments.