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Best Books For Ages 6-12 Months
- Our goal at this age is to normalize diversity and expose babies to new ways of communicating.
- Real photographs of actual people of a wide range of ages, faces, gender presentation, and races.
- Real sign language: Teach your baby real sign language (ESL, ASL, etc. your local dialect). It’s awesome and super helpful for pre-and non-speaking folks. Don’t teach them baby sign language or a bastardization of a Deaf language – that’s infantilizing, ableist, and cultural appropriation. We don’t teach our kids baby Spanish, that would be ridiculous.
- Focus on familiarity over novelty: Ages 6-12 months are still going to love all the same books from the 0-6 month period.
- Put these in storage for a couple months when they lose interest: Hold on to these books through early elementary – you’ll want to pull them out for emerging readers.
- Invest in the good ones: Although these are books that babies enjoy now, they’ll have surprising have lasting power through preschool (with long periods of disinterest in between). If you can afford it, go ahead and invest in used copies of your favorites, since it will be easier than getting the same book out from the library every month for the next 2-4 years.
- Basic Safety
- Look for rounded corners, and thick, staggered pages, that babies can grab, but won’t give them paper cuts.
- Teething, chewing, drooling: Dishwasher-friendly books (Indestructables, cloth books) are your friend, because these are going to get NASTY when babies start teething and drooling everywhere. Paper ones will warp and disintegrate.
- Cognitive Development: Forget literacy – master motor communicating. Don’t rush to the next stage of development. Meet kids where they are now.
- 6 months: Babies won’t be able to move hands smoothly until around 6 months. Even then, turning pages in a board book or lifting books up will be challenging for babies under 9 months.
- 6-9 months: Babies won’t be able to move hands smoothly until around 6 months. Even then, turning pages in a board book or lifting books up will be challenging for babies under 9 months.
- Meet babies where they are:
- Keep it simple. If you’re learning to identify items (ex: cup) or properties (ex: red), isolate a single image on each page and look for clean white backgrounds. Busy, complicated, adorable illustrations are overwhelming for infants under 9 months. Parents love them, but they can take years before kids ‘get into’ them and many parents get frustrated.
- Non-linear reading: Don’t expect a kid under 3 to sit still and read a book cover-to-cover. Around 18 months and again at 2.5 years and 3.5 years, your kid will have a big cognitive leap and will be more ready for storybooks with increasingly linear story lines.
- Weak little fingers: There are lots of noisy books with buttons that are too hard for infants to push down and flaps too fragile or hard to pull out. Test them before you enrage your frustrated infant with them.
- Motor control: Infants under 9 months can only manage Indestructables (dishwasher-safe!) and teeny tiny board books. From months 4 through 9, prevent frustrated screaming and have these on hand in your diaper bag, stroller, car, and in every room of your home. Keep one in your bra, if you wear one.
- Drooly chompy teethers: Expect mouthing and drooling to ramp up around 6 months (teething). NOM ALL THE THINGS! Everything will be covered in drool. Grimy library board books are not your friend during flu season. Buy new & disinfect glossy pages with vinegar and a soft cloth. Never leave any infant or toddler alone with a library book.
- Quality over quantity: Literally everything is new to them, and babies at this age find comfort in familiarity. Have baskets on the floor filled with 3-5 high-quality books in strategic places (in your tummy time, bedtime routine, diaper changing, potty, and play areas). You don’t need to get a ton of new books, just rotate which books show up in which basket every couple weeks.
- Reading 1 book together for weeks develops comfort, familiarity, and mastery. Those ‘1,000 books before kindergarten‘ programs are designed to shame exhausted and poor parents and are backed by lazy research and folks who need you to buy books to keep their jobs. Owning books is correlated with children’s success (which correlate with having a place to live and money to buy books), not reading them. Don’t fall for it.
- It’s not about you: Choose books for babies, not for parents. They will fall in love with books they can hold, and don’t care about the sappy/creepy Nancy Tillman book you got as a gift. Boring books breed resentment and make kids feel overwhelmed. It makes you look cool to have A is for Activist on your bookshelf, but your baby needs a book they can chew on.
- Get some sleep. Babies need well-rested caretakers more than they need story time. Treat story time as a fun and optional way to break up the day, not a lesson. It’s not just irresponsible to push early reading on new parents, it’s cruel.
Quick & Messy Book List:
6+ Months: Sensory Exploration
Fine motor and sensory input develops in the feet before the hands. While your baby is in a bouncer chair (so they can look down and see), hold sensory books for them to rub their toes on.
- Large-patch tactile sensory books are easier for babies who don’t yet have fine motor control. They are hard to find since they’re more expensive to make and most parents can’t tell the difference.
- Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy, Sandra Boynton
- Little Feet Love, Bendon Publishing- or uhhh, turns out this is made of lead? So manye not. Bummer, it was SO loved.
- Have You Ever Tickled A Tiger – smaller patches, but great range of material.
- That’s not my truck/dragon/robot…. series Fiona Watt – Wonderful for kids who need an outlet to shout ‘NO!’ The characters are nonbinary!
- Small-patch sensory books with smell
6+ Months: Photos of real faces
- Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug – This was the favorite of both the allistic & aut
- Kiss by Kiss / Ocêtôwina (Van Camp) – SO GOOD. real photos of families, perfect for babies. normalizes BIPOC families. Bilingual (Plains Cree / English)
- I can, can you? – Perfect for 0-3 years, ‘I can, can you?’ normalizes toddlers and babies with Down Syndrome doing everyday things and focuses on ability and commonalities to counter othering. Every infant and toddler in the book is featured as capable, normal, and just like every other kid. Kids with Down Syndrome ARE normal, and it’s vital that we read books like this to our littles to show them that. The thing I REALLY love about this book – they don’t even MENTION down syndrome except for a tiny note for adults on the back cover. destigmatizng disability
- Baby’s Day, Blake – Deceptively simple, this book is amazing. Selective coloring for new language, normalizing a nonbinary Black baby, recognizing daily routines, and very few (re: not overwhelming) staggered pages in a lightweight book for little fingers. SO GOOD. It’s out of print, but I wish they’d either re-print it or someone would take this idea and run with it for a series.
- Hey Baby/ A baby’s day in doodles (Pippin) this is a nice next generation to ‘baby’s day,’ (helpful since that one is out of print) which was one of our favorite books when my kids were infants, so I’m pleased to see this. Babies LOVE books about ordinary day routines (snack time, nap, etc), so it might not be immediate to parents on how this kind of book feels validating for kiddos, but this is powerful. plus the cute illustrations will give older toddlers something to look at and ask about and potentially color in. Pippin’s book ‘Step Into Your Power’ is FANTASTIC and I highly recommend it for the 7-9 range. Having a reflection of adorableness for Black readers and a way to identify with a Black baby for non-black readers as ‘just like me’ is really, really powerful.
- Kiss By Kiss – van Camp – Bilingual (Plains Cree & English). Good, cute photography (which is rare). Would be redundant if you’re already getting ‘Kiss tickle cuddle hug.’ Since everything is just a kiss, it doesn’t work as well for practicing consent.
- My Face book – star bright books – fine but bland, but a tleast has reasonable racial diversity. out of print anyway
- toesy toes – tsiang – AAPI maker- great photos but mostly white. one kid with down syndrome. one baby nursing. not so much about faces. but this maker looks promising. cute enough book.
The Babies and Doggies book – molly- was going to skip this, but I am glad I didn’t – by focusing on babies on doggies, it’s less about “LOOK, BROWN PEOPLE!” and better normalizes kids of color. no disability tho. 5 east asian, 9 white, 1 brown, 4 black – feels disproportionately white, esp. since 3 of the 4 black babies are on the same page, but ugh, fine. “Lots of things babies do, doggies do too. Babies and doggies hide and peek” every left page has baby, opposite a doggy. photos are high quality and in focus (although a couple could use a wider DOF, but I’m being picky). this is a good one. all in western/US settings.
- A Kiss means I love you (2016)- allen – board book – softcover isn’t as good as hardcover. photos are blurry and outdated and it looks kind of crappy. that said the racial diversity & family constellations are okay, with many more kids and caregiver combos of color than white ones.
6+ Months: Daily Life & Routines
- Baby Day, Wallace – A little long, but great for daily routines.
- how do you say i love you – shows modern families around the world doing daily life stuff, saying ‘i love you’ in different languages. cute bilingual (actually more) board book. particularly love that everyone is dressed in modern clothing (although covers major cities only) and it’s not full of stereotypes. languages, multiculturalism
6+ Months: Social & Emerging Language
- Things That Go & Oink, Moo, Meow (Say & Play, Sterling Publishing) – I had to hide the Say & Play books from R2 around 2.5 years because he asks for them ALL THE TIME EVERY NIGHT. They love these books so much, I got actively sick of them. BUT! They’re perfect for older siblings to read to younger siblings, since older kids have memorized them by now.
- Pantone Colors – Pantone – The variation in color shades gives this book a longer life than basic color books. It also clears up confusion later on (around preschool) when kids realize that you can have a green that looks yellowish, and a yellow that looks greenish, and so on.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? – I can’t stand every other book by Eric Carle, but we all love this book.
- The Sign About Series, Anthony Lewis – (ASL) Most board books teaching sign language to families for use with children are problematic and often contain errors. Check youtube and/or take a class if you can to clarify your signs. This series has multiple signs cluttered on each page, which is not ideal, but my favorite is out of print and I haven’t found a better version.
- Hands & Hearts, Donna Jo Napoli (ASL)
- Will Ladybug Hug? – AAPI maker and early start demonstrating respect for others’ bodily agency. woohoo!
- Whose Toes Are Those? / Whose Knees Are These? – Both books cover the same basic idea and are interchangeable. Normalizing Black/brown characters, cuddly and sweet. No story narrows the age range so it loses lustre for older kids. Pretty bland and we never really wanted to read it more than once a year.
- Te Amo Sol, Te Amo Luna (I love you sun, I love you moon) – Lovely as a first earth day book. Bilingual. Book is small (about 5″ square) and lightweight, which makes it easier for little hands, babies can probably start to hold it around 6 months. “I love you, stars. I love you, water. I love you, wolf. I love you, moon. I love you, earth. And you love me.” this was sweet and i like it a lot. Most characters are white, with a few token characters of color thrown in.
- Feminism is For Boys (Rhodes) – Transparency: I got a free review copy of this from the publisher. The title made me nervous, but the book is simple and lovely, if a bit bland (similar to C is for Consent). Clear and to-the-point, it’s an uncluttered board book that manages to fit in an expanded definition of what boys do (some cook, some wear dresses, some like sports), kind of a like a simplified board book version of ‘Some Boys‘ (which i also got for free, from Rabble Books & Games, and isn’t available in the US yet) for babies. Despite the title, the interior pages go on to explain that boys are friends with ‘all genders,’ so the use of ‘boy’ does not erase others on the gender spectrum. Do NOT confuse this with ‘My first book of feminism for boys by Merberg, that one is trash. I have to admit that Merberg’s book really made me wary of feminist board books ‘for boys’ but this book grows on me more and more every time I read it.
6+ Months: Books To Read On The Potty
If you’re doing elimination communication, keep a basket of indestructables and also maybe those junky, noisy books right next to the potty along with a little footstool to use as a table. This is the only time battery-operated junk books are worth it, but make sure the buttons & flaps can be manipulated little fingers, otherwise screaming will happen.
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? – I hate this book for many reasons, but it’s the only one that entertained the Earthquakes on the potty for long periods of time (ahem), with noise and buttons that even they could push at this age. Worth it.
- Indestructables – Again, are great for the bathroom, particularly if they get dropped in something gross and need to be washed.
- Making Faces – I didn’t include ‘Making Faces’ because I didn’t have a chance to add problematic books yet. I was so disappointed because the idea behind the book was solid, the photos are good, but the execution was extraordinarily racist. I wasn’t comfortable with the way the publishers linked negative emotions with babies of color and happy/silly emotions with white kids. Whoever arranged the layout of this book, they definitely let their bias show on this one in an effort to amplify each emotion. The happy baby = White. Sad & grouchy = Black baby. Angry & screaming = Asian baby. Surprised & scared = South Asian baby. It’s almost like they were casting for the most stereotype-filled movie ever. For instance – if you look closely, the photographer managed to get photos of a happy Black baby, but they kept that relegated to the background. While I wouldn’t show this to my infants and toddlers because whoa – what a way to instill implicit/subconscious bias, it does make a great book to show how a publisher can reinforce bias without even realizing it.
The big book of beautiful babies – all in black and white – first off, the cover – where the only Black baby is oddly edited, like they blew out the lowlights. second issue – the photographer clearly doesn’t know how to edit for darker skin, and it’s telling. the photos are taken in 1995 and published in 2001, i’m like 95% sure he could have controlled for some of this highlight/lowlights in photoshop. the book is majority white. and it starts out with “baby good, baby bad.” NOPE. no thanks.
- Hello baby Faces – priddy & jackman – no. starts with ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ with a kid with short hair and another with long hair and a bow. goes on to show a woman with long blonde hair and pearl earrings and a man with a bushy beard. grandma has white hair, red earrings and a bun, of course. vast majority is white, with a few token brown kids. darkest kid is latte-brown, because the illustrator was too lazy to figure out how to depict a Black face. even the small size is negated by the weight of the book, way too heavy for a 6mo to handle, and the larger-than-pages cover means it can’t be propped open for tummy time. fuck this.
Books that are fine but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get. I’m just putting them here to get them out of my way while sorting the rest of my notes.
- Summertime Rainbow – yang – a bilingual book of color – I remember being disappointed by this. includes chinese characters and english, but no pinyin until the very end of the book. that’s asking a lot of mandarin language learner parents to memorize the pinyin for the whole book before they familiarize themselves with the characters. makes it worthless to all but chinese-literate families. Also there are typos, and even if you know the language, it’s boring. Board book.
- Global Babies – charlesbridge – 2007, photos are not great, mostly blurry and out of focus, but composition is better than most. babies wearing traditional clothing except in USA, where white baby wears fleece suit and hat. It’d be fine if parents are specifying these are traditional outfits – but why does the white American baby wear a casual modern outfit? I guess it does at least showing a second USA baby in indigenous baby carrier thing (papoose?)- although I wish they had called it by tribe/nation rather than general ‘USA.’ No kids with disabilities, of course.
- Global baby bedtimes – charlesbridge – not as good as original ‘global babies.’ lack of eye contact makes these disengaging and rather boring. skip it. still no kids with disabilities
- Show me happy – allen- 2016 14 white faces, 14 faces of color, why didn’t they try harder? words are thrown in as an afterthought “show me happy, show me helping, show me up, show me down” with no common theme. photography is average and borderline unbearable. entirely forgettable, but 2015 images are more contemporary than others. given publication date, no excuse for not having better and more diverse racial and ability representation. tokenism
Little You (Van Camp) – This is a fine book, but it’s not particularly engaging. It’s a board book for toddlers, with heady lines like “You are life and breath adored / You are us and so much more” which is hard to parse for infants and toddlers, centering the adult gaze. It’s the kind of thing grandparents get for baby shower gifts.
Sweetest Kulu – I want to like this adorable #OwnVoices Indigenous/First Nations (Inuit) story, but it’s forgettable with lines that don’t really mean anything to little kids. SUPER cute illustrations but without scaffolding on the connection between animals, the earth, and Inuit culture, it doesn’t grab kids for engagement.