Besides offering the perfect opportunity to cuddle and wind down before bedtime, many experts believe that reading to your baby daily from birth will turn him or her into an early reader. Even if your child ends up reading on his own at an average age, getting him started young will help baby learn to value books and words and will start building his vocabulary and comprehension skills from from early on. At just a year old, I often find my son whom we read to before all naps and at bedtime, sitting in a pile of books flipping through pages and babbling. 

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Literacy expert Mem Fox even suggests that reading at least three stories a day to your child could potentially put an end to illiteracy within a generation. I've found that the easiest way to accomplish this goal from infancy is simply to incorporate a book into your naptime and bedtime routines, which has the added bonus of being a constant signifier to your child that it is time to sleep.

For babies that are still in their first year of life, you generally want to stick to shorter stories that aren't too overstimulating, so they won't become overtired and cranky while you read, but you still want the text to be rhythmic and catchy and the pictures to be bold and graphic so as to hold their attention spans.

Here are five great books that fit the bill:

'Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?' by Dr. Seuss 1

'Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?' by Dr. Seuss

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At 2 months old, my son began attempting to mimic the sounds he heard in this story. It was the first book that he really responded to, and to this day it is one of his favorites. Throughout the story, your child will encounter lots of real-life noises and will be encouraged to replicate them. The pictures are bright and beautiful and the rhythm of the text is in keeping with Dr. Seuss's timeless style. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss, $4.49


'Play Baby Play!' by Marilyn Janovitz 2

'Play Baby Play!' by Marilyn Janovitz

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Marilyn Janovitz's Play Baby Play! is a sweet story about a tiny tot having a blast at a play group and is full of adorable illustrations of multi-ethnic babies getting along and exploring lots of new toys. I love that the book ends with baby falling asleep for a nice cozy nap. Play Baby Play! by Marilyn Janovitz, $7.19


'Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See?' by Bill Martin Jr. 3

'Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See?' by Bill Martin Jr.

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If you're a parent with a young child and haven't heard of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?, you're likely living under a rock. However, it wasn't until we were exploring our local public library that we discovered this even more baby-friend version, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do You See? It features Eric Carle's instantly recognizable graphic illustrations of a host of fun animals, and ends with Baby Bear finding his mama. Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do You See?, $7.19

'Goodnight Moon' by Margaret Wise Brown 4

'Goodnight Moon' by Margaret Wise Brown

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Originally published in 1947, Goodnight Moon is unquestionably a children's classic and you'll probably find it on every list of the best bedtime stories, but it's for good reason. The story is easy to read, has beautiful illustrations and has a remarkable way of getting little ones nice and drowsy. It's even available in Spanish! Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, $8.99


'Snuggle Puppy! A Little Love Song' by Sandra Boynton 5

'Snuggle Puppy! A Little Love Song' by Sandra Boynton

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These days, no baby's library is complete without a Sandra Boynton story. We're partial to Snuggle Puppy! which doubles as a bedtime song. It's a syrupy tune about loving your little baby (snuggle puppy), that you can customize by singing to whatever melody you like. Even if you don't buy the book, check it out from the library and you'll have the lyrics memorized in no time. Snuggle Puppy! A Little Love Song by Sandra Boynton, $5.99