Reading with Toddlers: The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

One-year-olds are constantly on the move. If they haven’t learned how to walk yet, they soon will, and it will be hard to keep their attention. One of the best parts of reading to your child is that it will be the one time of day they will actually sit still and snuggle with you!

We’ve put together a list of the best books for one-year-olds based on what will captivate their attention, teach them about their big world, and instill a love for reading at a very early age.

Why It’s Important to Read to a 1-Year-Old

Research shows that reading to your toddler is a very important habit to lay the foundation of language in your baby’s brain. The more words and phrases a one-year-old hears, the more they will start to understand their meaning and develop their own language. While it may not seem like your one-year-old is actually understanding everything, getting into a habit of reading will increase the likelihood that you continue to read as they get older. Books are an essential teaching tool to help them navigate their little world.

During the toddler years, you can teach your child how books work by encouraging them to hold the books, turn pages, point to the pictures, and even use your finger to scan as you read the words. Add this to snuggling close with their parent, and reading will become a positive experience they will want to do often.

What Kinds of Books Should You Read to a 1-Year-Old?

At this age, one-year-olds love:

  • Touch and feel books
  • Lift the flap books
  • Rhyming books
  • Sturdy, board books
  • Short, repetitive books

All of the books below were chosen based on these criteria and reviews from personal experience. We discourage one-dimensional books that do all of the work for the child, such as noisy or interactive toys. These can sometimes overstimulate a child.

How to Engage with Your 1-Year-Old While Reading

Here are some ways to engage your toddler with the book while you are reading:

  • Ask them to find the moon or sun in the pictures (there’s almost always one). Where’s the moon?
  • Tell them other things you see on the pages, beyond the words, and see if they can find other things going on in the pictures. What color are the leaves on the tree?
  • Find an animal and ask them what that animal says. What does the cow say?
  • Ask if they can repeat the silly phrase, even if they can’t talk yet. Can you say Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?
  • Encourage them to open and close the flaps of lift-the-flap books. What’s under this rock?
  • If it’s a book your child knows and loves, pause before a phrase to see if your toddler can say it for you.
  • Let your child turn the page.

Books for 1-Year-Olds

Below is a list of all the books that meet the criteria for being the best and favorite among one-year-olds and their parents.

Each of these books would be great gifts to give at a baby shower, a one-year-old’s birthday party or to add to your Amazon registry. If you don’t have an Amazon registry, it is a great way to corral all of the baby items from Amazon in one spot. Adding a book or two to a baby shower gift is such a great way to build a baby’s home library.


Pat the Bunny Book

Pat the Bunny

By Dorothy Kunhardt
Ages1 – 3 years | Touch and Feel Book

Pat the Bunny is one of the very first touch-and-feel books, first appearing in 1940. It allows your child to interact with the pages by patting the bunny, playing peek-a-boo, smelling flowers, reading a book, feeling Daddy’s scratchy face, putting your finger in Mummy’s ring, and waving bye-bye.

There is a reason this book is still on the market after all these years — it is a beloved favorite by every one-year-old I know. My daughter will request to re-read it multiple times.


First 100 Words Book - the best books for 1 year olds

First 100 Words

By Roger Priddy
Ages 1 – 3 years | Board Book

This book features everyday people or things that toddlers are exposed to, separated by themes such as colors or bathtime. It is a simple book of just pictures and words but will be a good base for introducing language to your child and association between words.

This book is sturdy and will stand the test of time with toddlers who tend to be rough with their books.


Dear Zoo Book - the best books for 1 year olds

Dear Zoo

By Rod Campbell
Ages 1 – 4 years | Lift the Flap Board Book

Each page begins with, “I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet and they sent me…” and your child will discover different animals by lifting a flap. The animal isn’t a right fit, though–the lion is too fierce, the frog is too jumpy–and for one reason or another, each animal needs to be sent back to the zoo. Your toddler will be rewarded for their patience when at the end, the perfect animal is revealed. This is a classic lift the flap book that every one year old will adore!

The flaps are not always the same, so it makes your toddler have to think and look for them. Also, we love how the book ends. No spoilers!


Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Written by Bill Martin Jr., Illustrated by Eric Carle
Ages 1 – 4 years | Board Book

A brown bear, a red bird, a yellow duck… this classic board book teaches children about animals, colors and will encourage children to turn the pages and see what animal is next.

A toddler will find this classic mesmerizing, looking at the big, bright pictures and listening to the sing-song repetitive wording. This is a favorite among one-year-olds and frequently requested to “read again”. 


The Pout Pout Fish - the best books for 1 year olds

The Pout Pout Fish

Written by Deborah Diesen, Illustrated by Dan Hanna
Ages 1 – 4 years | Board Book

Follow along with a “pout-pout fish” as he encounters many friends who encourage him to cheer up, but the pout-pout fish tries to convince them that he is destined to be glum. It isn’t until the end when he discovers that his “dreary wearies” are actually not his destiny and that a little act of kindness and generosity can turn the way he sees himself.

The alliteration and rhyming in this book are fantastic and introduces so many new words to a child’s vocabulary that they may not hear on the regular, like “a kaleidoscope of mope.” We also love the lesson that how you perceive yourself can affect how you and others think about you, and that normally an act of kindness goes a lot longer than telling someone to change, like many of the pout-pout fish’s friends did. Give it a few reads and before long your toddler will be saying “Blub Bluub Bluuuuub” along with you. 


Little Blue Truck - - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle, Illustrated by Jim McElmurry
Ages 1- 4 years | Board Book

A friendly Little Blue Truck greets his farm animal friends along his commute in the country with his “Beep! Beep! Beep!” Their friendliness is tested when a dump truck, who is in a hurry and doesn’t have time for greetings, gets stuck in the mud. It teaches children about animal sounds, how to count to 3, and how to treat others with kindness.

We love the Little Blue Truck’s friendly, helpful disposition, and the fact that he helped someone who was rude without comment or criticism. This world needs more little blue trucks in it!


The Going to Bed Book - - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

The Going To Bed Book

By Sandra Boynton
Ages 1 – 3 years | Board Book

Join a group of animals on a boat as they take a bath, get their pajamas on, brush their teeth, exercise, and get ready for bed. The silly, simple rhyming is a favorite with toddlers. You’ll have this book memorized after just a few readings.

We get tickled when the animals go up to exercise. Who exercises after they’ve taken a bath? Silly, silly. 


Moo Baa La La La - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Moo Baa La La La

By Sandra Boynton
Ages Baby to 3 years | Board Book

“Cow says Moo, Sheep says Baa, Three singing pigs say La La La!” A silly book with simple illustrations about the sounds animals make.

Sandra Boynton books are always a hit with one-year-olds! This seemly simple, silly book is a favorite of so many toddlers. It is another great book to introduce children to animal sounds.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Written by Eric Carle
Ages Baby to 3 | Board Book

Read along as you witness the life stages of a butterfly — from the little egg to a hungry caterpillar eating his way through the book to chrysalis and then into a beautiful butterfly. The die cuts are fun for toddlers to interact with and easy for them to turn the pages.

This is a classic for a reason! There are so many lessons in this book: it is a great introduction to teach about colors, counting, the days of the week, and how your tummy feels after eating too much. It also teaches about metamorphosis, which may be a little lost on some toddlers. But the concept of the little egg transforming will remain.


Peak a Flap Moo Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Moo: Peak and Flap Book

Written by Jaye Garnett, Illustrated by Joy Steuerwald
Ages Babies to 5 years olds | Board Book, Lift the Flap Book

This lift-the-flap-book is perfect for introducing children to animals around a farm. The pictures have great detail and bright colors, and each spread has two flaps in various directions to keep children engaged.

Unlike many flap books, this one has complete sentences in addition to the words of the animals, so it’s a book that can grow with your child. And it should grow pretty well with your child since the flaps are very sturdy. A must-have with a rough one-year-olds!


Goodnight Moon Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Goodnight Moon

Written by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd
Ages 1 – 4 years | Board Book

Goodnight room, goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.” At bedtime, a young rabbit wishes goodnight to all the things in his room. The illustrations alternate from black and white to color, captivating a child’s eyes as they turn the pages.

No nursery is complete without this classic. We love saying goodnight to the object and seeing if the toddler can find that object. It makes for a great addition to your nighttime routine.


Emma BabyLit Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Emma: A BabyLit Emotions Primer

Written by Jennifer Adams, Illustrated by Alison Oliver
Ages 1 – 3 years | Board Book

Follow the characters of Jane Austin’s Emma and discover their emotions. You will learn that Emma is excited, Mr. Weston is surprised, Jane Fairfax is tired, and see the emotions on the faces.

If you are a fan of the Jane Austin classic (we are!), then you will love introducing your child to this version. While it may seem simplistic to have one image and a sentence per page (Mr. Elton is angry), it is a great book to introduce a child to emotions. As the reader, it is fun to imitate the character on the page and see if your toddler can do it too. The pages also have one, bright background color, so it’s a great way to teach children about colors.


Race Car Count

Race Car Count

Written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Illustrated by Michael Slack
1 – 5 years | Lift-the-Flap Board Book

Ten cars are racing each other, each with unique colors and personalities. The race is thrilling and action-packed, told through the cute rhyming and fun illustrations, and children will learn how to count to ten as they get introduced to each car.

At the end of the book, there’s a “Meet the Race Cars” page with names and personal facts about each of the car characters, which adults and older children will find amusing. Like car number 9 whose name is Comet and likes milkshakes. This is a favorite among toddler boys!


Hooray for Hat!

Hooray for Hat!

Written and Illustrated by Brian Won
1 – 5 years | Board Book

Go away! I’m grumpy! Elephant wakes up grumpy one morning and then discovers a present on his doorstep and a fun hat inside. It was hard to stay grumpy now — Hooray for hat! he cheers. He then goes to show his friends and finds them grumpy too, and the act of sharing his hat helps each friend get out of their grumpy mood.

The animals learn that the perfect way to combat grumpy moods is to share with your friends. This book is one of our favorites and puts everyone in a better mood after reading it. It is hard to stay grumpy after reading this book!


Good Night, Gorilla Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Goodnight Gorilla

By Peggy Rathmann
Ages 1 – 4 years | Board Book

A zookeeper goes around saying goodnight to all of the animals at the end of the day as he closes up the zoo. What the zookeeper doesn’t realize is that a gorilla tiptoes behind him and unlocks each cage, so that a line of animals follow him home into bed.

The illustrations are so good — there is always something new to point out or to find on the pages. It has a mischievous plot but in a silly, playful way. Another bedtime favorite that will grow with your child.


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Written by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, Illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Ages 1 – 4 years | Board Book

The lowercase letters of the alphabet race each other to the top of a coconut tree.  But it turns out there’s not enough room and — BOOM BOOM — they all come falling down. Their caregivers (the capitalized letters of the alphabet) have to pick them up and dust them off.

Honestly, this silly book doesn’t make a lot of sense to adults, but my goodness do children love it! The lyrical, rhythmic wording is fun for adults to read and children to listen. It also begins to teach children about the alphabet and the difference between capitalized and lowercase letters.


Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You

By Nancy Tillman
Ages1 – 5 years (really, any age would love this) | Board Book

A beautiful love poem to a child, sharing how special and loved they are, that they are never alone because love will always find them. The illustrations are as lovely as the words.  

All of Nancy Tillman’s books are amazing, but this one is extra special. Add this to any baby shower gift — it would make a lovely present to a new mom, or even grandparent. Maybe include tissues nearby when you read it — it such a lovely, sweet book.


We're Going on a Bear Hunt Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

By Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen
Ages 1 – 4 years | Board Book

Join an optimistic family as they go on an adventure through swishy grass, stumbly forest, whooshing snowstorm, and finally tiptoe upon a bear. Once they reach the cave, they quickly run back through their journey and back safely home.

The repetitive language and sounds effects for each leg of their adventure are fun for kids and parents alike. We love the jolly, can-do attitude of the family who exclaims at every turn: We’re going on a bear hunt, what a beautiful day! We’re not scared. The soft, pastel illustrations are a nice change from most bold, harsh children’s books. It is a favorite among toddlers and big kids alike.


Alphabet Book - The Best Books for 1 Year Olds

Alphabet

By Matthew Van Fleet
Ages 1 – 6 years | Board Book, Lift-the-Flap Book

his ABC Safari book reveals different animals from A to Z. Its multi-concept book has flaps, scratchy texture, sticky pads, pulls, shimmering foils, and scratch and sniff. Included in the back of the book is a separate ABC map with all of the animals featured.

This is one of the best interactive books we’ve seen. We love that it features unusual animals, some we’ve never heard of! While you may expect a zebra for Z, you get a zorilla instead (we looked it up — it’s an African skunk).



Gotta Go, Buffalo

Gotta Go, Buffalo

Written by Haily Meyers, Illustrated by Kevin Meyers 1 – 5 years | Lift-the-Flap Board Book

Gotta go! See you later! So long! Separation anxiety is common among toddlers and saying goodbye is hard for many. But this book makes saying goodbye fun and silly! This book will teach children to say goodbye in different ways, which rhyme with an animal that is hidden under a flap.

It is a fun book with charming illustrations and witty farewells that stick with you in the best way.


These are only a handful of hundreds of great books for one-year-olds. If you have a favorite book that you would like considered to be featured, please feel free to contact us!

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Ginna Neel

Author: Ginna Neel

Ginna is a writer, wife, mom to two daughters, and founder of theKidBookNook.com. She lives in Durham, NC, and is passionate about reading quality, clever, and inclusive books to her kids. Our mission here at the Kid Book Nook is to foster a love of reading in children, starting in the home. Read more posts on raising a reader. Happy reading!