It's never too early for babies and young children to enjoy books. Board books are an ideal way to introduce the very youngest readers to words, pictures and great stories. There are many hundreds of grab, chew and spill-proof board books available; some that reproduce old and modern classics, others that focus on sensory discovery through contrast colours and textures.
Our daughter, who is nearly three, continues to love her board book collection, which began when she was just a week old. She still enjoys dipping into them, especially in the morning while tucked up in bed and, recently, sharing them with our three month old daughter, who is taking a keen interest. Below are 10 of her favourites, starting with those for the youngest readers.
Hello, Animals! by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Emily Bolam (Bloomsbury)
This was our older daughter's first board book, and is a prominent feature in some of our most cherished early photos of her - wide-eyed with awe as she gazes at the colour-contrasting black and white animals. On each page, an animal gives the reader a happy greeting, along with a pair of associated words ("Hello, Zebra! Clip, clop"), and a splash of bright colour. Part of a series, Hello, Bugs! was also much enjoyed.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Annie Kubler (Child's Play)
This was one of the books we received as part of our BookStart pack, a wonderful charitable scheme where every new baby born in the UK receives at least one book to start their collection. Helpful as part of teaching the traditional song, it contains sweet illustrations of happy babies playing together, and the variety of children featured makes it a good example of a picturebook that promotes diversity.
Bunny and Bee Can't Sleep by Sam Williams (Boxer Books)
This is probably the book we read more times than any other in our older daughter's first six months. The beautiful opening pages show a huge treehouse and the words "Here is a house. A house in a tree", followed by the tale of two friends who want to get to sleep but are kept awake by noisy night creatures. When morning comes, they all give a big yawn and curl up together on the treehouse porch swing. Its soothing, soporific rhythm made it an ideal choice at nap time.
That's not my fairy! by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells (Usborne)
This is one of the groundbreaking and prolific series that began more than a decade ago, great as both a touch and feel book and for learning a wide range of adjectives. In this one, we meet a group of fairies who all have features to examine (bumpy slippers, fluffy wings, frizzy hair), none of whom is 'my fairy' except for the last "That's my fairy! Her wand is so sparkly".
Where's Spot? by Eric Hill (Penguin)
First published in 1980, this was one of my faviourites as a child, and has been one of our daughter's most enjoyed. The tale of mummy dog in search of her pup is enduring and endearing. As Sally looks for Spot, she needs our help to open the cardboard flaps and look behind cupboard doors, under the piano, in the box and under the rug, before eventually finding him hiding in a wicker basket. It seems with this book that the more it's been loved, the fewer flaps remain.
Honk honk! Baa baa! by Petr Horacek (Walker)
This is a tactile tour of animals and their sounds, beautifully illustrated by one of our favourite picturebook creators. Petr Horacek's clearly apparent love of the natural world is one of the defining features of his work, seen as clearly here as it is in other books of his that we love (including Puffin Peter, one of our 5 books of 2015). This is 'flip flap' fun from the very first reading days.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan)
Available as a board book, and many other formats, this is the tale of a mouse's perilous "stroll through the deep, dark woods". Its famous author/illustrator partnership brilliantly blends the rhythm and energy of the words with illustrations that are full of life to produce a pitch-perfect modern classic. A family favourite that our daughter now loves to recite aloud.
Going Swimming by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln)
This is one of a charming series of books that helps prepare young toddlers for activities of everyday life, with easy language and traditional style illustration. Here we follow a family outing to the swimming pool, which was helpful before and since our daughter's first splash.
The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin)
One of the world's most famous and recognisable picturebooks this tale of a caterpillar with an amazing appetite continues to delight. First published in 1970, this board book edition is perfectly suited to the reader's task of following the caterpillar's trail through his extraordinary feast - from salami to cherry pie - before the big reveal of his metamorphosis from chrysalis to butterfly. A special book that reminds us of an afternoon our daughter enjoyed with her 90 year old great-Grampa reading this and other books.
Walter's Wonderful Web by Tim Hopgood (Macmillan)
This story of a little spider's efforts to build a wind-proof web is told through bold, fun illustration and an easy to follow narrative full of alliteration. It helpfully offers a learning opportunity too, through a clever incorporation of shapes and adjectives. Ideally suited to reading alongside another Tim Hopgood favourite, Wow! Said the Owl, with its focus on colours.