Language · Ones and Twos · Under Ones

Better Baby Books

I never thought much about board books until having a baby of my own. I started reading to my little one because… you’re supposed to…. and there’s not much to do with a baby… but to my surprise by six months he was already showing clear interest in books and now 13 months, he rarely goes ten minutes without bringing me a book to read. Of course, well he is mostly over eating books, he is far from gentle with them. So board books are perfect, right? Almost! I love that board books are

  • Durable
  • Short
  • Easy to carry
  • Full of babies and animals, and
  • Have easy to turn pages
    But I do wish more board books were:

  • Mildly entertaining to adults
  • Had simple high-contrast images
  • Had very few words on each page
  • Had a pleasant flow to the words
  • Were less fantastical (children under six are still figuring out how the world works and stories about real things can help)

Doing some research online, I’ve discovered that although board books sell below the price of paper children’s books, they are more expensive to print than paper books. Thus, to get a decent profit margin, publishers must print board books in large quantities for which the cost per book is lower. Given this necessity to print large quantities, publishers tend to stick to books that are sure to sell – adaptations of children’s books that have already gained popularity in the paper format, or super simple books that can be made entirely in-house. The simple books (think: ‘This apple is red’) are interesting and developmentally appropriate for babies and toddlers, but they are not particularly pleasant for adults. On the other hand, books that have been adapted from popular paper books, can be interesting to the adult, but lack the clarity and simplicity ideal for babies, and also tend to have way to many words.

Here are a few board books I do like:

  • You are a Lion (for it’s fun kid and and animal pictures and it’s call to movement)
  • The Little Blue Truck (for it’s pleasant rhyming poetry)
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (for it’s diverse baby images and limited text per page)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (for it’s simple images and rhythmic text)
  • There’s a Wocket in my Pocket (for it’s limited text and silly humor)

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