2019 Best Books for Babies List Released

Nationally-acclaimed list created by librarians and child development experts includes quality books that are not only fun and colorful, but vital to babies’ early development.



Babies love books. Cuddling up with a caregiver, looking at pictures and listening to the rhythm of words, whether they understand them or not, can be comforting, exciting or just plain fun.

The first three years of brain development are critical. The more words children hear, the more the speech and language parts of their brains are stimulated. Every parent needs to know two things when it comes to babies: it’s never too early to begin reading aloud to them and doing so is a phenomenal means of starting babies on the path to educational success.

Each year since 2000 a panel of Pittsburgh librarians and child development experts have curated a list of books perfect for sharing with the very littlest listeners. As in past years, the Best Books for Babies 2019 list includes titles that will delight and engage babies age birth through 18 months and their caregivers. This year’s selections help parents dip their baby’s toes into experiences that revolve around different animals, colors, shapes and cultures, as well as exploring different actions, expressions, words and sounds. 

According to Lisa Dennis, Coordinator of Children’s Collections at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, chair of the committee, the top titles this year were selected from almost two hundred books submitted for consideration by publishers, committee members and local librarians. 

“Parents and caregivers may not know how important it is to shower babies with sounds and language, along with warmth and affection,” advises Dennis. “They can use this list, as well as those from previous years, to select quality materials to share with the very youngest listeners. Reading aloud is helpful even before babies can understand the meaning of your words. Word by word, book by book, you’re preparing your baby for educational success and lifelong enjoyment.”

Research conducted by Dominic Massaro, a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, found that “although parents can build their children’s vocabularies by talking to them, reading to them is more effective. Reading aloud is the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding, which form the basis for learning how to read […] picture books are two to three times as likely as parent-child conversations to include a word that isn’t among the 5,000 most common English words.”  

The Best Books for Babies committee used the following criteria for selecting this year’s titles: the text had interesting language and introduced children to new vocabulary; the book encouraged reader participation and interaction; the story and illustrations were engaging, interesting, and designed for very young children; and the books were free from gender, ethnic, racial and religious stereotypes. 

All books on the Best Book for Babies list were published in 2018:

Baby Says by John Steptoe – (HarperFestival) – This board book shows the love between an energetic baby and his older brother. Families of all shapes and sizes can enjoy this story.

  • Baby See, Baby Do: Lift & Look in the Mirror! by Robie Rogge, photographs by Jennifer Hale – (Chronicle Books)
Each page features a photograph of a different baby as they show emotions or complete an action. Babies will also enjoy seeing themselves in the attached mirror.
  • Baby's Firsts by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Michael Emberley – (Charlesbridge Publishing) – Rhythmic rhymes describe the typical milestones of a baby’s first year. Three different families appear in the pictures.
  • Birds of a Color by élo – (Candlewick Studio) – Very young babies will be able to focus on the black and white birds. Colorful flaps will surprise and entertain babies of all ages.
  • Black Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light* – (Candlewick Press) – A black bird and orange worm are paired with pictures in a rainbow of colors. High-contrast collage and textured paint create eye-catching illustrations.
  • Count with Little Fish by Lucy Cousins – Candlewick Press) – Thick black outlines, vivid colors and shiny textures make the pictures in this board book pop. The rhyming text includes plenty of descriptive words and phrases.
  • Go Baby! Go Dog! by Anne Vittur Kennedy – (Albert Whitman & Company) – In bright, cartoon-style illustrations, a redheaded baby tries desperately to catch up to a long-nosed, brown and white dog. Brief repeated text heightens the humor.
  • I Am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen*, photographs by Rebecca Gizicki – (Albert Whitman & Company) – Each page shows babies with their families, pets and everyday items.Caregivers can make connections to their own babies’ lives.
  • Jonny Lambert's Animal ABC; Jonny Lambert's Animal 123 by Jonny Lambert – (DK Publishing) – All kinds of animals parade through these two books. Small hands will be able to lift the sturdy flaps.
  • Toesy Toes by Sarah Yi Tsiang – (Orca Book Publishers) – Playful language is paired with clear photographs of babies. Caregivers can introduce a new word—“toes”— by touching their babies’ toes as the word repeats in the text.

*Books by this author have appeared on previous Best Books for Babies lists.

Parents can explore earlier Best Books for Babies lists and find additional book recommendations at carnegielibrary.org.

Best Books for Babies is a cooperative project of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Fred Rogers Company and Trying Together. The Best Books for Babies Committee strives to identify books that will delight and engage both babies and the adults who care for them.