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Our top 10 books for baby’s bookshelf

It’s never too early to read or sing to babies. They will tune into the sounds, rhythms and patterns of your voice and will gradually focus on, and delight in, the pictures. Books are a wonderful way to engage your baby in a shared, enjoyable and stimulating activity and a perfect way to spend time together. As babies grow, they will join in with your actions, words and tunes to bring the book to life. This early experience is an important first step on their journey as readers.

The stories, songs and rhymes you share together are likely to include favourites from your own childhood, children’s classics and new books by contemporary writers and illustrators. Some will be board-books, cloth or sturdy pop-up books that your baby can handle themselves. Here are some books to bring back happy memories and introduce you to some new family favourites. You can build your collection of favourite books through exploring other titles by these exceptional authors and illustrators. For more ideas also see Our top 10 classic picture books  and our Books for 0-3 years .

The Baby’s Catalogue
Janet and Allan Ahlberg

A classic treasury of the world of babies, available as a paperback or board book. Filled with familiar objects gathered together, cataloguing the daily lives of babies from five families, from breakfast to bedtime. It’s a charmingly nostalgic picture of family life and the array of baby objects encourages lots of pointing, choosing, naming and talk.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Who Do You See?
Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle

This classic picture book is rhyming, rhythmic and memorable. It’s about colours and  animals and builds up slowly with a satisfying reverse pattern at the end. Available in many languages and as a board book, it has tissue-paper collage illustrations and is perfect for sharing again and again.

For the song version see here

Also read by the author

See the Eric Carle Online Museum: 

See also Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear?


Dear Zoo
Rod Campbell

An interactive, open-the-flaps book about receiving surprise presents from the zoo.

Each one has to be unwrapped and then sent back until the most perfect present of all arrives.

Lots of repeated phrases and fun to join in with and enjoy.

A young family sharing the book (Scottish Book Trust)

See our ideas for sharing Dear Zoo here

For another lift the flap book see Where’s Spot? Our activities here


It’s a Little Baby
Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb
Pan Macmillan

A new book with an interactive rhyme to say or sing, containing flaps and actions for joining in. It’s tuneful and pitched just right for babies and young children.

Sung by Julia Donaldson 

Also see video of sharing the book with baby on same web page.


(Bear and Hare series)

Emily Gravett
Pan Macmillan

Bear and Hare went for a walk and found lots of interesting things along the way. “Mine!” said Hare. But Bear didn’t care until.. Hare found honey and the bees gave chase! Poor Hare. “There there” soothed caring Bear.

Beautifully illustrated and a playfully told tale of acceptance and love.

Read aloud

For another book about friendship and sharing see Banana! by Ed Vere

Very First Mother Goose
Iona Opie. Illus. Rosemary Well

A magical compendium of classic nursery rhymes collected by renowned folklorist Iona Opie and illustrated by the irrepressible watercolourist, Rosemary Wells. Described as the ‘mother of all nursery rhyme books’, this is a collection to dip into and treasure over days and years.

Janet and Allan Ahlberg

With a wonderful rhythmic rhyming refrain and peep holes on every page this book is great fun. As young children begin to talk can join in with the cry of ‘Peepo!’ There is lots to talk about in the pictures and it is fun to peek through the peepholes together and talk about what’s coming next.

Watch the story

For another, very simple ‘peepo’ story see PEEK-A-BOO by Jan Omerod


Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
Men Fox, Helen Oxenbury (illus)
Walker Books

In this book we meet babies born all over the world and discover that although their skin colour may vary and they are born in very different places they have a lot in common; they all have ‘ten little fingers and ten little toes’. The rhythm and repetition of this memorable refrain makes this book fun to read aloud. There is opportunity for lots of toe tickling, cuddles and kisses with one very special baby as the book ends too.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle

A firm favourite of generations past present, and no doubt future, this book is a must-read for babies and young children. It’s about food, the lifecycle of butterflies, days of the week, counting and FUN! A visual feast of a book with holes and flaps for little fingers. Available as a board-book.

Read by the author:

See our ideas for sharing The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

Wow! said the Owl
Tim Hopgood

When little owl stays awake one night he is amazed by the beautiful colours around him but he discovers the starlit night time sky is most beautiful of all.

Watch the story

A beautifully illustrated story about colours with a repeated refrain which is fun for joining in.

For more ideas to build baby’s first bookshelf see  our classic picture book section and our books for 0-3 year olds.