Want to raise a bookworm? A bookshelf packed with a mix of classics and new faves makes for blissful bedtime reading and is the first step to raising a reader. Here, we’ve rounded up 19 storybooks that have been mesmerizing little ones for years, from tales about ravenous caterpillars to mischievous bunnies. You’ll probably remember a few from your own childhood.
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This sweet book, available in sturdy board book and hardcover editions, celebrates beloved babies sleeping, eating and being snuggled. It’s a short, sweet read with vibrant illustrations of diverse babies that will mesmerize your little one.
Available at amazon.com, $6.79
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
There’s a reason illustrator Eric Carle has his own museum. You could fill a little one’s library just with his brilliant, award-winning work, but if you only pick one Eric Carle book, pick The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It offers early exposure to counting and vibrant art that pops off the page. Plus, little ones love feeling the tiny holes the caterpillar has chomped through the strawberries and salami. Fun fact: Did you know a hole puncher provided the inspiration for this tale?
Available at amazon.com, $6.89
Boynton’s Greatest Hits
Sandra Boynton’s joyful words and exuberant animals make story time extra fun. Instead of picking just one of her books, snatch up a copy of Boynton’s Greatest Hits, a collection that includes four of your kid’s soon-to-be faves, including Blue Hat, Green Hat and Moo, Baa, La La La. These books have just the right kind of mixed-up, silly humor that toddlers love, and the short and sweet language is perfect for tiny attention spans.
Available at amazon.com, $15.99
Chika Chicka Boom Boom
Fair warning: You may find the catchy alphabet rhymes from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom running through your head long after story time is over. Poppy, bold illustrations and clever text introduce little ones to their A to Zs.
Available at amazon.com, $11.96
Your parents probably read you Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Goodnight Moon when you were a wee one. It’s the right length (short!) for baby bedtime reading, and the repetitive text is soothing. Plus, little ones love revisiting the rhythm of the bunny’s routine and bidding goodnight to the pair of mittens and three little kittens.
Available at amazon.com, $6.19
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Beatrix Potter’s beloved book makes for a perfect first birthday gift. As your little one’s attention span grows, you can introduce mischievous Peter’s adventures in Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden and delight over the sweet supper of blackberries and milk.
available at amazon.com, $6.99
Guess How Much I Love You
Remind your little one that you love them to the moon and back by reading about the little nut brown hare and his papa. Older kids will love mimicking the story and trying to find as many big, big things as they can to express their love for you. Extra bedtime hugs guaranteed.
Available at amazon.com, $10.27
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Mo Willems’ story of a lost stuffed bunny hits home for any little one who’s ever had a stuffie go missing. Knuffle Bunny stars bald-headed Trixie, who is every toddler, amid a mix of photos and cute illustrations.
Available at amazon.com, $12.24
Green Eggs and Ham
Introduce your child to Sam-I-Am, and to trying new things, with Dr. Seuss’s classic Green Eggs and Ham. With any luck, it’ll inspire your toddler to try a bite of spinach alongside scrambled eggs. Hey, it’s worth a try!
Available at amazon.com, $6.69
Last Stop on Market Street
This Newbery Medal winner is one of the new classics. Matt de la Peña’s story of a grandmother and her grandson riding the bus across town reveals the beauty in every day life in the city.
Available at amazon.com, $9.39
Giraffes Can’t Dance
Get out the tissues: This book sends a heart-warming message that our differences are valuable, one that kids are never too young to hear. It’s available as a sturdy board book that’ll stand up to reading it over and over (and over) again.
Available at amazon.com, $5.06
Llama Llama Zippity Zoom
Anna Dewdney’s short, simple Llama Llama books have loads of baby and toddler superfans who’ve fallen in love with Llama Llama’s never-ending energy and the story’s ear-catching rhymes. In this book, Llama Llama zooms around the playground. Others have him going to sleep in red pajamas, learning to share, and missing mama when he starts preschool.
Available at amazon.com, $4.06
Follow Carmelita and her pup as they walk through their neighborhood in this new classic, which introduces little ones to all the ways there are to say hello.
Available at amazon.com, $13.69
Good Night, Gorilla
Zoo lovers flip over Peggy Rathmann’s tale of animals who follow the zookeeper home. The silly animals’ mischievous antics always tickle toddlers’ funny bones. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading this one nightly.
Available at amazon.com, $6.39
The Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats’ Caldecott award winner shows his beloved character Peter exploring the snow-covered street outside his apartment. It’s a sweet, quiet story of life in the city that little ones adore.
Available at amazon.com, $5.29
A Child’s Book of Poems
Illustrator Gyo Fujikawa’s roly poly, chubby-cheeked little ones fill the pages of this collection of classic poems. Toddlers love looking at the layered illustrations while listening to poems like “Winken, Blinken, and Nod” and the classic nursery rhymes that fill these pages.
Available at amazon.com, $8.95
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Vehicular-minded kids go nuts for Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne. Author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton tested her work on a tough audience, her own two sons, so you know it’s good.
Available at amazon.com, $7.59
This classic tale of friendship between a teddy bear and his girl stands up to multiple readings. Don’t be surprised if your child starts begging for a Corduroy of their very own.
Available at amazon.com, $4.80
The Little Red Caboose
You probably remember hardcover Little Golden Books from your days of learning the A-B-Cs. If you only pick one Golden Book for your baby’s bookshelf, make it The Little Red Caboose, the story of a hard-working train car that wants to be noticed like the big steam engine.
Available at amazon.com, $3.61
Tell us: What’s your favorite classic book for babies and toddlers?
— Oz Spies