It’s never too early to introduce your baby to books. At just a few weeks old they can begin to enjoy the sensory stimulation of handling the pages, looking at the colours and shapes and listening to the familiar rhythm of your voice.
Then, as they continue to develop, reading aloud will open up a whole world of new skills, from communication, listening and memory skills and boosting their vocabulary to introducing them to concepts, such as colours, shapes, numbers and letters in a fun and accessible way.
In fact, bonding with a child over a book, especially as part of a nightly bedtime ritual, can help to inspire a lifelong love of reading, according to a study by the Oxford University Press.
But which books should you be reading to your little one? While it’s hard to beat the timeless classics (who doesn’t have fond memories of The Hungry Caterpillar?), there is a new raft of children’s literature emerging that promotes values beyond the traditional morals of classic fairytales and explores a more relevant and current world view.
From embracing diversity and celebrating difference to challenging stereotypes and boosting self-esteem, here are a few of our favourite uplifting and empowering books for 21st-century babies.
Perfect for those who want to teach their little girl there's more to life than princesses and pretty dresses, this empowering book focuses on being smart. The third in Stephen Krensky and Sara Gillingham's empowerment series, it celebrates the incredible knowledge of toddlers, whether it's comparing heavy rocks to lighter flowers, or noting that the sunlight delineates the day from the night. Parents and babies alike will love the bold, bright retro illustrations.
Chicago Childrens Museum
Written in the lively and playful style of a nursery rhyme and with beautifully simplistic illustrations, your little one will love to look at the pictures while you read this book aloud. A celebration of diversity with a focus on skin, it explores themes such as acceptance, self-confidence and friendship, encouraging children to embrace individuality in its myriad forms.
Another celebration of individuality, It's Okay to Be Different is deceptively simple. With the help of Todd Parr's trademark bold, bright colors and childlike drawings, it delivers important messages about acceptance and empathy and helps to boost self-confidence, in a unique and child-friendly way.
Toddlers will love this heartwarming tale of Errol and his teddy (and best friend) Thomas, which cleverly introduces young children to the concept of gender identity and transition. One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad and can't figure out why, until Thomas finally tells him what he has been afraid to say: “In my heart, I've always known that I'm a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.” Errol responds with the beautiful line: “I don't care if you're a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.”
Barnes & Noble
The perfect iPad antidote for the touch-screen generation, illustrator Herve Tullet has created an interactive masterpiece with nothing more than a few coloured dots of paint and some simple instructions. Watch your little one squeal with delight as they touch the dots, shake the pages and tilt the book, as instructed, causing the dots to move, grow and multiply when they turn the page.