Top Ten Picks for Toddlers

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As a homeschooling mom of six and an early intervention provider for more than twenty years, I have held more board books in my hand than almost anyone- save perhaps those stocking the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Before I list some wonderful titles, I’d like to provide you with a crash course in toddlers and books.

  • A six month old will eat a book.
  • A nine month old will explore the mechanics of turning board book pages.
  • A twelve month old will look at pictures in a book.
  • A fifteen month old will point to pictures in a book.
  • An eighteen month old will name pictures of familiar objects and animals in books.
  • A twenty-one month old will turn paper pages and name even more.
  • A twenty-four month old realizes there is more to books than just pictures.
  • A twenty-seven month old is beginning to enjoy hearing familiar picture books read.
  • A thirty month old will listen to a picture book story for five minutes.
  • A thirty-six month old will fill in familiar words and phrases in picture book stories.

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This, of course, is just a reference point for typical learners. Some children will be more interested in books than others, and consequently will explore them earlier or later. Up until about eighteen or twenty-one months of age, books that allow children to recognize and learn the names of new objects and animals are the way to go, starting with those that only have one on each side of the page. Once they are consistently pointing to pictures of single objects, books with five or six photos on a page allow them to learn scanning. At around a year and a half to two years, short picture book stories can be shared. Super short books can be read to a child whose attention span is only about two minutes, and can be a great way to start. Stories that can be read rhythmically should be, because all language has rhythm and cadence. Books that actually have a plot will be better understood by a two and a half year old, and humor in books may not be recognized by kids until they are closer to three.

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So without further ado, my recommendations for a two year old’s library are as follows:

Alborough, Jez (2000). Hug. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Brown, Margaret Wise (2007). Goodnight, Moon. New York, NY: HarperFestival.

Henderson, Kathy (1998). Counting Farm. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Horacek, Petr (2008). Choo Choo. London: Walker Books Ltd.

Martin, Bill Jr. (1996). Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Rathmann, Peggy (1994). Goodnight Gorilla. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Rosen, Michael (1989). We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. New York, New York: Scholastic Inc., by arrangement with Little Simon.

Spinelli, Eileen (2001). When Mama Comes Home Tonight. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Stickland, Paul and Henrietta (1997).Dinosaur Roar. New York, NY: Dutton Children’s Books.

Stickland, Paul (2006). One Bear, One Dog. Wincanton Somersat, UK: Backpack Books by arrangement with Ragged Bears Publishing Ltd.

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