What are the best books for newborns? As of a mother of a newborn just a few short years ago, I have to be honest: you can read infants whatever you like. War and Peace, a YA Romance, Selected Topics in Astrophysics. When a baby is only weeks old, all they really care about is the sound of your voice and a soft spot to chill in your arms. If you’re lucky, your calming tones will lull your drooling audience to sleep.
However, even if babies lack discerning literary tastes, studies show there are clear benefits to reading to even the youngest infants. Parents.com cites a 2019 study in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics that found that “kids who are read to every day are exposed to around 78,000 words each year — over five years, that adds up to 1.4 million words heard during story time.” The Cleveland Clinic also notes that reading is a great way to bond with a baby, reducing both baby and parent stress.
So, in addition to your personal TBR list, what kinds of books should you read to a baby? Here are some some things to look for when picking the best books for newborns:
- Books with clear pictures and bold contrast: Newborns see best in black and white, so high contrast images help the baby focus. Bright colors also grab older babies’ attention.
- Sing-song text: Babies love changes in tone. If the words are easy to say in sing song, the baby might start wriggling along with your rhythm.
- Books about babies: Everyone likes books about their experience, right? Babies have an easier time recognizing baby objects like bottles and toys.
- Board books: Those tiny fingers love to grab — and tug. Board books are a great durable choice that can stand up to baby’s curiosity.
- Textured books: Babies love grabbing things to test out textures. Crinkly pages, felt and vinyl books are always a win when it comes to textile images. Bonus points is they can chew it.
The Best Books for Newborns
With those criteria in mind, here are 15 books newborns and the people who read to them will love:
Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown and A.G. Ford
This sweet book gently describes a baby’s nighttime routine. Spanish phrases are sprinkled throughout, perfect for expanding a bilingual vocabulary. It’s a great bedtime book for newborns to inspire sleepy vibes.
Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi and Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Having read this one at bedtime at least 100 times, I can say it’s still a favorite. The text is a simple ode to loving everything about your baby as they move through the day and get ready for bed. As a parent, I appreciate the familiar “exhausted but proud” faces the mom and dad in this story have.
What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell and Ingrid Godon
Blame it on the baby-related sleep deprivation, but I always found the title phrase, What Shall We Do With the Boo Hoo Baby? fun to say. In this board book, a baby is left in the care of some enterprising farm animals who try to feed, bathe, and play with a baby that won’t stop boo-hooing. What parent can’t relate? Written by the author of How to Tame Your Dragon, this story captures how taming babies is no small feat.
Little You by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett
Written and illustrated by Indigenous creators, the simple rhyming words and beautiful illustrations in Little You put a beautiful spin on parents expressing their wonder and love for a new baby.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn
This gorgeously colorful books tells the story of a young girl who spends the day playing with her mother’s khimar (headscarf) and explores all the different meanings it has for her and her mom. A newborn will love the bright colors and simple but sweet words.
Made for Me by Zack Bush and Gregorio De Lauretis
The illustrations of the burly dad and tiny baby are adorable in Made for Me. One of the few recent books that focuses on new parenthood from the dad’s perspective, it has rhyming text that lends itself to sing-song reading and quite a few “awws.”
I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominguez
Babies are often so cute you want to nibble them (That is normal, right?). Doubly so if they are swaddled like a burrito. This is a bilingual English-Spanish story about a baby’s first days at home. Good luck actually swaddling the baby into a snuggly burrito — that’s magic only maternity ward nurses seem to have perfected.
It Had to Be You by Loryn Brantz
Illustrated in bold, black, white and red (especially designed for babies’ developing eyes), It Had To Be You tells the sweet story of how every baby is the most unique and wonderful person to their parents. The story will resonate especially for those parents who had a long road to parenthood.
I Love You to the Moon and Back by Amelia Hepworth and Tim Warnes
The title is a refrain every parent wants engrained in their baby’s heart. I Love You to the Moon and Back is illustrated with snuggly animals and tells the story of how much babies are loved. The board book can also withstand a baby’s curiosity.
Art for Baby by Various
This one doesn’t have any text, but your baby will love the high contrast, black and white contemporary art chosen specifically for infants. The images take up the whole board book page. I’d stand up the book to an open page during “tummy time” and get a few amused gurgles from my daughter. It’s also a welcome break for adults — consider it a starter book for your baby’s artistic tastes.
Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee and Kadir Nelson
Baby books might not be your first association with the legendary director Spike Lee, but he and his wife wrote a lovely ode to the joys and frustrations of a baby’s endless antics. Hopefully the gorgeous illustrations won’t give your baby ideas for new tricks before bedtime.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
This classic by Mem Fox tells a story in rhyme about how babies around the world have Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Babies will love all the baby faces, and readers can practice counting off chubby fingers and wiggly toes as they read along.
So Much! by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury
Another Oxenbury-illustrated pick, So Much! tells the story of relatives who shower a baby in love. Everyone who visits — including aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins — have hugs and kisses for the newest member of the family.
Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal
Simple black and white images will grab the attention of newborn eyes as this board book shows familiar sights like faces, hands, and flowers.
Night-Night Forest Friends by Annie Bach
Calm the littlest ones with this sleepy story of cuddly woodland creatures tucking in their babies at bedtime. You and baby will be pleasantly yawning by the end.
These books will get you started with baby’s first storytimes. If you are looking for even more of the best books for newborns, check out our list of 50 Must-Read Board Books for Babies.