Should Science Choose the Books for Your Baby?

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M. Lynx Qualey

Staff Writer

M. Lynx Qualey is the founder of, a website that brings together translators, authors, publishers, critics, academics, and readers around discussions of Arabic literature in translation. She works as a book critic, reader, editor, and ghostwriter. You can follow her at @arablit.

A New Year’s Eve article at the Washington Post cites a new brain study that suggests “the type of book you read to your baby is important.”

Reading, the study authors argue, can support brain development. Still, it’s not really clear from the article whether it’s the reading matters or the conversations parents have with their children around books.

In the end, they suggested that, “For infants, finding books that name different characters may lead to higher-quality shared book-reading experiences and result in the learning and brain development benefits we find in our studies.”

The reason for that, the WaPo suggests, isn’t that Corduroy has some magic that Goodnight Moon doesn’t. It may well be that parents talk more with their children about the bear missing a button, and they just read Goodnight Moon exactly as written, in hopes it will lull their baby to sleep.

In this case, it’s wordless books that would be best for brain development. A new campaign from the publisher Tiny Owl celebrates the importance and beauty of wordless books.

Of course, as the WaPo notes, babies are individuals, just like us, and they deserve books that fit their own particular tastes. Still, five great wordless book recommendation from my kids, for yours.

5 Wordless Picture Books That Inspire Storytelling

Polo: The Runaway Book by Regis Faller, originally published in France

A terrific, magical child-pleaser that goes to all sorts of improbable lands to recover a runaway book. Indeed: All of the Polo books are magical and can be read long past babyhood.

This book also appears on BookRiot’s 2016 list of “Great Translated Books from Around the World.”

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

Daisy’s favorite ball is destroyed by a bigger dog and Daisy’s hapless owner throws it in the trash! The adult can tell the story of what happens—of course, there’s a happy ending.

Follow the Firefly / Run Rabbit by Brazilian author-illustrator Bernardo Carvalho

This is double your worth: a picture book with two titles and two covers, that can be read from front to back or back to front.

Follow “Firefly” in his search for a flashing light, and then flip the book to read about Rabbit’s escape.

Playing by Helen Oxenbury

Loving baby illustrations by Helen Oxenbury showing babies’ delight with a range of different toys (blocks, wagon, pot, box, book, teddies, balls) and ways of playing with them.

Also available as a board book for babies who like to chew on their books.

A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer

This classic wordless book follows a boy and a dog as they try to catch a frog. They’re unsuccessful, and then find—to their surprise—that the frog has followed them home.