Books for Babies
You (or a family member/friend) have a new baby on the way. You’re gathering all the gear you’ll need: clothes, diapers, changing table, car seat.
And then someone asks you if you’ve gotten any black-and-white books for the new baby.
You might think: “Books? So soon? Why does a newborn baby need books?”
“And why black-and-white? What’s that about?”
I know. It’s confusing. I didn’t get it either when my child was born. That’s why I put this post together for you. Read on to learn more about when to start reading to your baby and why “black-and-white” books are such a good place to start!
Plus I share three classic and must-have black-and-white board books to help you get started with your baby’s library!
Why Black and White Specifically?
When babies are first born they don’t see as well as you might think. Their eyes are still developing. In fact, for the first three months they can only see things clearly that are 8-11 inches away.
That’s why early childhood professionals recommend books with “high contrast” and “black-and-white” – because black-and-white illustrations have the greatest contrast and baby can see them.
Benefits of Black and White for Babies
- Bold images (like black-and-white illustrations) stimulate the development of optic nerves in a new baby.
- The combination of black and white in these images also produces strong contrasts that make the images easier for a baby to see and enjoy.
- Illustrations they can see help to enrich baby’s daily life and help them as they learn and focus.
Explore the topic more at this excellent article “The Advantages of Black & White in Developing Newborns’ Vision.”
Books with Baby from Day One
One of the most common questions I am asked is how soon should I start reading to my child? The answer is – right away from day one. Even though it won’t seem like they are paying attention ?. Read anyway.
As you accumulate toys to stimulate a growing baby’s experience of the world be sure to have books available too.
A good rule of thumb is to start with a basic baby library of ten books. These books will carry you into “toddlerdom” and beyond to pre-k and kindergarten. They are a great investment! I also have a list of top ten baby books you can start with as you build that little library.
Plus, check out this tip from the pros: don’t move baby and toddler books out of the house as your children grow older. You might think “oh these little books are too easy for my child’s reading level.” Truth is it’s best to keep these first books in your child’s library. Kids are often attached to these books and will go back to read them over and over again. I’ve caught my kid (who has reached the confident reading stage) reading his baby board books to his stuffed animals! It’s the dearest thing ever! They also might read the books to a younger sibling, a pet, or a visitor. As well as savoring the books for themselves.
What is the impact of reading a book that is “too easy” you might ask? It’s a wonderful thing for long-term reading ability. I know there are those who may encourage you to put the easy books up high and focus reading time instead on their grade level. But if you think about it … do you as an adult always read things that are “at your reading level”? Or do you often read fluff pieces for fun? When kids are at home, reading on their own time, it’s a great thing to give them a break from their learning and let them read whatever they want for fun.
Now, let me introduce you to three black-and-white board books for baby’s first library. You can’t go wrong with these gems!
Three Black-and-White Books for Your Baby’s First Library
These three books are award-winning classics that are beloved by many. They are favorites from our house and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve given these three goodies as baby shower gifts.
They will absolutely get you headed in the right direction. All three come in sturdy board book format – perfect for developing little fingers.
Book One – I Kissed the Baby!
I Kissed the Baby! is a delightful story by Mary Murphy. It’s the story of baby’s day with repetitive text that will help you build your baby’s vocabulary. It was first published in 2003 and it’s from one of my favorite publishers, Candlewick Press.
Easter egg: This books contains one of those magic Easter Eggs I like to talk about. Read the copyright details and you’ll learn that the darling font used throughout the story was designed by author illustration Mary Murphy specifically for this book.
Reviews: School Library Journal gave this story a starred review and calls it “An ideal book for little eyes and ears.”
Our experience: I think I read this story to my little one about a thousand times. Every night for three years. Which would be a a thousand nights of reading it. The story is so sweet! It features a lot of the words a baby or young child may hear people say. It’s a book that will grow with your child. We were still reading it five years later. Funny thing, I eventually gave it away (trying to keep the books from overrunning our house). In the end we missed it and bought another copy! If I was going to buy just one book for a baby this book is the one I would start with.
Book Two – Look Look!
Look Look! is from Peter Linenthal and was published in 1998 by Dutton Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
It might be from the 90’s but this little classic is an ideal board book for babies and – like I Kissed the Baby! – this cheerful bit of fun will be treasured on your child’s bookshelf and read for many, many years.
Peter Linenthal’s illustrations are simple, high-contrast, black-and-white works of art – perfect for babies as they take in the wide world around them.
Fun Fact: Peter Linenthal taught art in elementary schools for twenty years.
Our Experience: My sister gave us this book when my son was first born. I will tell you that it did not appeal to me at the time. Like most new moms I was a little overwhelmed by how much my life changed with the birth of my son. And I had not heard a thing about the benefits of black and white for babies. In spite of my lack of enthusiasm my son pulled me along with this particular book. He was certainly in love with it – the content of the story appealed to him perfectly. I changed my tune in time and fell in love with this little gem.
Book Three – Baby Talk / Hablando con Bebé
Baby Talk / Hablando con Bebé celebrates the many ways that babies talk – and the ways that people talk back! Written by Stella Blackstone and published by Barefoot Books, this sweet title features wonderous photos of babies and families of all colors and kinds. It’s refreshing to see a book with illustrations that really resemble the world around us.
Bonus: Baby Talk was first published in 2015. The English/Spanish bilingual edition followed. And in 2019 Barefoot Books added three more titles to the series: Baby Play / Jugando con Bebé, Baby Dream / Sonando con Bebé, and Baby Food / Comiendo con Bebé. The Baby’s Day Set is a great pick as a baby shower gift. I link you to the bilingual Spanish version of the set. I love that the Spanish and English text are set in the same size fonts in Barefoot Books bilingual editions. You may begin to notice that many bilingual books from other publishers do not follow this same approach. Often they place the Spanish text in a smaller font size then the English text.
Our Experience: Thank goodness for the diversity focus that Barefoot Books brings to the world of children’s literature. It’s been one of their core goals since 1992 when they published their first titles. It wasn’t until the books from Barefoot started filling the shelves in our house that I realized the lack of diversity in many other titles. So often the books are about animal characters or someone who is Caucasian. We’ve really enjoyed books with characters that look like us and our friends. We appear to be Caucasian but my husband is a quarter Hawaiian and that makes my son 1/8th Hawaiian. Understanding the beauty of the diversity of people is important to us.
Feel More Prepared with Book Ideas for Baby?
I hope this article helps you with ideas for raising a little reader from their very first day!
Gather up a few of these charming black and white titles for the new baby or baby-on-the-way.
Enjoy them together as baby grows into toddler and beyond. All these titles come as sturdy board books. They’ve been designed with sticky fingers and chewing in mind!
As your child grows up I recommend that you keep these books on their shelf. A developing reader will benefit from going back and reading the books they enjoyed as an infant. You’ll be surprised what they remember about these stories that they love!
Happy Reading and #bebookrich!
A Few More of My Favorite Black-and-White Books
Look for these great titles at your local library or book store. Remember to check consignment stores and book sales!