Philip Bunting Library Card

The Very Hungry Caterpillar can eat a bag of salami. There’s a world of incredible picture books out there to discover with your tiny human. Here are three papery playlists for the Three Ages of Child that Laura and I have read through, so far. With no apologies for the antipodean bias, it’s time to dust off that library card…

Picture book playlist: Baby

Birth-18 months

Never underestimate a baby. They’re smarter than you think. Babies are learning language from the moment their inner ears develop, while they’re still doing time in utero. Once they’re out, babies learn language from their parents and carers, who naturally repeat words to them, tell them stories, sing songs, and respond to their giggles, smiles, hilarious farts and not-so-hilarious sharts.

New mums and dads – read to your baby from birth. They may not be able to follow the plot, but they are learning to connect reading with what they love most (time with you!).

Here’s my recommended reading list for babies. All gold:

01. Stick Man 
Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

02. Hug
Jez Alborough

03. Wolf Won’t Bite
Emily Gravett

04. All Through My Town
Jean Reidy & Leo Timmers

05. Magic Beach
Alison Lester

06. Big Dog… Little Dog
PD Eastman

07. Hairy Maclary
Lynley Dodd

08. Rudie Nudie
Emma Quay

09. Dear Zoo
Rod Campbell

10. The Snow Wombat
Susannah Chambers

Picture book playlist: Toddler

18 months-3 years

By 18 months, your slightly larger tiny human is picking up early literacy and language skills that will help them learn to read in a couple of years time.

Give your toddler plenty of time to talk during book reading. Create opportunities, encourage them to say more, and show interest in what they say. This incidental baby banter is as valuable as the book-reading itself. Have fun, be noisy, be weird, make cinematic sound effects… go nuts! Make booktime a fun time, so that you and your child look forward to it, every day.

My pick of books to read with toddlers, the golden age for picture books:

01. I Want My Hat Back
Jon Klassen

(Probably the best picture book of all time)

02. The Very Cranky Bear
Nick Bland

03. They All Saw a Cat
Brendan Wenzel

04. That Is Not a Good Idea!
Mo Willems

05. It’s Only Stanley
Jon Agee

06. Dave’s Cave
Frann Preston-Gannon

07. Pig the Pug
Aaron Blabey

08. Little Red
Bethan Woollvin

09. This is My Rock
David Lucas

10. Shhh! We Have a Plan
Chris Haughton

Picture book playlist: Preschooler

3-5 years

Positive reading experiences encourage more reading. The more your not-so-tiny human reads with you, the more likely they are to read throughout their life. Keep up the dialogue during booktime. Embrace the pauses and inject ideas. Relate things in the story to their life. Ask questions, and pay attention to their answers!

At this age as much as any, when you are with your child, limit distractions – turn off the TV, hide the laptop, throw your phone in the fruitbowl. Focus. Be deliberate.

Here’s my list to read with 3-5 year olds. These are books are listed because they are incredible to read with kids – because they’re brilliant picture books – they are not recommendations for learner readers. Needless to say… all gold:

01. The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein

02. Du Iz Tak?
Carson Ellis

03. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

04. The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Oliver Jeffers

05. Anything!
By Richard Scarry

06. Please Open This Book
Adam Lehrhaupt & Matthew Forsythe

07. Mr Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown

08. Grandad’s Island
Benji Davies

09. Please Mr Panda
Steve Antony

10. The Koala Who Could
Rachel Bright & Jim Field

There’s a rising tide of brilliant picture books out there, so head down to your nearest library or bookshop, and get amongst it!

The age brackets and a few of the developmental references in this post were borrowed from a brilliant little document from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Many thanks to Joe Blatt, Nonie Lesaux, and Catherine Snow for their work on ‘Encouraging Your Child to Read’ (2015).