The best little books for babies and toddlers and preschoolers.

Are Babies Too Little for Books?

SLS UKReading

Subject: Reading for pleasure

Topic: Rhyming Books

Age Group: Early Years

Synopsis: It is never too early to give a child a book. They don’t even need to be able to sit up. Prop them on your knee and as soon as their eyes begin to focus, babies will look at a picture with interest. Helen Oxenbury’s board books, All Fall Down and Tickle Tickle, are great starters but there are many other good first books out there that children love. 

Librarian’s view:

Initially very young children just love to look at the pictures and the adults’ role is to talk about what they see and turn the pages. At this stage there’s no need to read the actual words, in fact that is often too much for the youngest children. Then, as they grow to love books, the words become more important and the rhyming aspect comes into its own.  When children come to love particular picture books, parents and carers will know how corrective their toddler can be if they try to change the text!

The rhyme encourages the child to interact with the text in a specific way. Understanding and interacting with text are what reading is about, but young children take particular delight in a rhyming couplet. The structure allows for easy remembering of the words (an important early reading skill) and the delight of predicting and supplying the up-coming rhyming word. Re-reading of favourites allows the adult reader to leave more gaps in the narrative and more opportunities for the child to participate.

Rhyming has great value in the teaching and learning of phonic skills, hence the prevalence of rhyming books within phonic schemes, but here we are talking about the pleasure young children get from high quality picture books with wonderful illustrations, an engaging story and easily predicted rhymes.

The titles picked out are just a few of the many available books – don’t forget Julia Donaldson, maybe the queen of rhyming texts as children and adults who love The Gruffalo will testify.


There’s a Bear on my Chair
by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow)

Big, bold illustrations and a swinging rhythm to the text. The double page spread, with the bear ‘showing his fine taste in leisurewear’ and combing his quiff whilst the tiny mouse looks down sadly at his very ordinary jumper, is very funny. The story also provides scope for problem solving and talking about sharing, an important issue with this age group. The mouse’s solution to the problem works well and leads to a follow-on rhyming book There’s a Mouse in my House.

Shark in the Park
by Nick Sharratt (Picture Corgi)

Nick Sharratt’s colourful illustrations and a setting that is very familiar, combine to draw young children into this story of mistaken identities. As well as supplying the rhyming words there is the opportunity to yell, “There’s a Shark in the Park” at least three times. The circular page cut-outs add more interest and if you supply the child with a cardboard tube ‘telescope’ they can make their own sightings even more fun.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy
by Lynley Dodd (Penguin)

Some difficult names in this story but that doesn’t seem to faze young children, indeed they seem to relish the whippet ‘Bitzer Maloney’ and daschund ‘Schnitzel von Krumm’. The rhymes are happily obvious from the illustrations – Maloney is ‘bony’ and von Krumm has a very ‘low tum’. As each dog joins the walk to the far end of town, the list of names accumulates until all six dogs run scared from Scarface Claw, in a doggy poem where the child can supply the rhyme on alternate lines.

Each Peach Pear Plum
by Alan Alberg and Janet Alberg (Puffin Books)

The old favourite, Each, Peach, Pear, Plum combines beautifully intricate illustrations – there is so much for the child to find on each page – with story characters who are becoming familiar to them in their home and educational settings. Then adds in the children’s game of ‘I Spy’ for good measure.  Each page has the repeated “I Spy…” beginning on the second line and a clear rhyming couplet for the child to complete.