Take a look at the Carnegie Library’s 12 Best Books for Babies
Summer reading isn’t just for kids that can read. It’s for babies, too. The annual Best Books for Babies list, recently released by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP), is targeted at children aged birth to 18 months.
The selection committee for this carefully curated list was led by Lisa Dennis, coordinator of Children’s and Teen collections, and Erin Zambataro, coordinator of Children’s Services and Family Engagement for CLP. The committee includes experts in early literacy and child development — among them a positive racial identity development expert, a published children’s book author/illustrator and several parents.
“The committee selects the yearly titles based on the books’ ability to promote linguistic, social-emotional, cognitive and visual development for young learners,” Dennis says. All 12 suggestions on the Best Books for Babies list were voted on and chosen from a selection of more than 100 books in a series of two- to three-hour-long meetings.
A previous member of the committee, Dr. Catalina Hoyos, is a pediatrician who initiated Booksburgh, a UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh program designed to get patients reading. Dr. Hoyos explained the importance of exposing children to literature early on.
“Babies are what we call our ‘earliest listeners’,” Hoyos says, “and books can also help them reach other milestones such as fine motor skills as they turn the pages.”
Dr. Aisha White, the director of the P.R.I.D.E. (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education) program at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, has served on the committee for the past three years.
“I’m particularly looking for books that portray diverse babies from different backgrounds and illustrations that look like the populations portrayed,” White says, “not necessarily just skin color, but specific facial features.”
Here is the CLP’s list of this year’s Best Books for Babies:
- “My Heart Beats” by Rina Singh, a colorful read that describes the sound of a heartbeat in various languages from all around the world accompanied by photographs of an ethnically diverse group of children and their parents.
- “Jungle Night” by Sandra Boynton, a bedtime story that also has optional audio accompaniment interpreted by the expressive cello of Yo-Yo Ma.
- “Leo Loves Daddy” and “Leo Loves Mommy” by Anna McQuiin, illustrated by Ruth Hearson, two books about a baby who loves spending time with both of his parents.
- “We All Play” by Julie Flett, a book celebrating playtime with vivid illustrations of children and nature while also including a glossary of Cree words for the featured animals.
- “Goodnight Everyone” by Chris Haughton, a board book with simple shapes and heavy color contrast, perfect for babies as they do not develop good color vision until 5 to 8 months of age.
- “Farm Lullaby” by Karen Jameson, illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan, a charming bedtime story about different barnyard animals singing their babies to sleep.
- “If You’re Happy and You Know It!” and “Pop a Little Pancake!” illustrated by Annie Kubler and Sarah Dellow, two rhyming books with illustrations of children from different backgrounds and musical notation on the back.
- “City Baby” by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by Ashley Barron, a book about a young baby being exposed to new sights and sounds in a bustling urban environment.
- “The Night is Deep and Wide” by Gillian Sze, illustrated by Sue Todd, a bedtime read with soothing rhythm and repetition in the text that is accompanied by largely black and white illustrations.
- “Baby, Sleepy Baby” by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, a gentle picture book based on a Nigerian lullaby that evokes the warmth of a parent embracing their child.
The committee additionally offers tips for parents reading to their babies:
- Books with simple black text against white pictures are easiest for babies aged birth to 6 months old. Young babies also like patterns and pictures of people’s faces.
- Babies explore their world through touch and taste. Share sturdy books that offer different textures and sensations.
- Babies learn through repetition. Read stories over and over again.
- Young children are wiggly! Share books when your child is relaxed but still alert.
- Share new words every day. Point to pictures on the page as you describe them. Make connections to things you see and experience in real life, too.
- Children learn from everything they experience. Talk, sing, read, write and play every day.
Carnegie Library also offers programming for parents and their young children, including in-person and virtual storytimes at locations across the city. These opportunities are not only helpful for educational development, but also social development.
There will also be a Best Books for Babies Diaper Distribution on Saturday, July 23, at the CLP’s Hill District location from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in partnership with Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank. Families and caregivers with children ages birth through 18 months will receive a Best Books for Babies 2022 book bundle and two packages of diapers (sizes 0-3).