That’s the age when your baby is sitting up, focusing, and can begin to enjoy looking at books with mom and dad. (However, Jim Trelease, longtime read-aloud expert and author of the Read Aloud Handbook, apparently says you can go ahead and when your child’s a newborn. No danger!)
If you’re still not convinced, the website ReadtoYourBaby.com cites ten benefits from reading aloud to baby.
So if you have a friend, cousin, sister-in-law, or co-worker who’s expecting: a book can go much farther in improving a new baby’s life than a tiny outfit, or a tiny toy. (And your own baby, of course, will love to read with you.)
But what sort of books? Babies are less likely to engage with a book aimed at older children, particularly if the pictures have a lot of visual information and there are too many words. Babies like clear pictures, repeating text, rhymes, and sing-song. (This is why بابا جي أمتي would make a perfect baby book. Sigh.) By the time your “baby” is a toddler, she may also enjoy funny images.
Since it’s hard to ask a baby what she or he prefers, I have consulted heavily with my two-year-old in creating this list. In fact, you can consider this his list. In no particular order:
صندوق الحيوانات. 1 written and illustrated by Waleed Taher. In fact, I’m not sure whether my two-year-old would choose this or perhaps صندوق الأرقام , which is full of brightly colored bugs! The colors are exceptionally sharp, the shapes are easy to focus on, the text is simple. And, as always, done with Taher’s characteristic sense of humor. (Dar El Shorouk)
حروفي جميلة . 2 written and illustrated by Waleed Taher. I am generally not a fan of alphabet books (in any language). But the two-year-old is crazy for this one: Sharp pictures, great concept, simple text, and…it’s funny! (A فيل فيها غسيل ? A ضفدعة تركب طيارة ?) The older one laughs at the pictures and encourages the younger one even further. And if it helps him learn his letters, I guess I don’t object to that, either. (Dar El Shorouk) Buy it online in Egypt or outside Egypt.
ألوان الدكان. 3 written by Dareen Charafeddine and illustrated by Nicole Dubas(?). This story of Uncle Ramadan’s fruit stand features bright colors and even a little bit of texture (your toddler can feel the Arabic words on the page). It’s the same image again and again, but a different part is highlighted: the pomegranates, the bananas, the apples, and so on. I don’t really care about whether my two-year-old is a prodigy with learning his colors, but the simple, brightly colored images are engaging and enjoyable. (Kalimat Books)
هل للكانغار أيضا أم؟. 4 written and illustrated by Eric Carle, translated by Dr. Muhammad Enany. This is one of the classics of the children’s book world. While my two-year-old just isn’t crazy about how Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? comes out in Arabic, he loves Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? and says “ah” after every page. (That’s Egyptian for نعم .) Bright, well-defined illustrations of mother and baby animals. (Dar Al-Balsam)
السمكة الملونة هربت. 5 written and illustrated by Taro Gomi, and translated from the Japanese by Dr. Essam Hamza. Perhaps this can only be fully enjoyed by older babies, but moms and dads can help younger ones find the little pink fish on each page. My two-year-old is delighted by searching out the pink fish as it jumps from its bowl to a pink-spotted shower curtain to a potted plant and beyond! Bright, simple illustrations and easy to follow. (And no, the fish is never very hard to find.) (Dar El Shorouk)
نمنم يرسم الدينية 6 written by Wa’el Hamdi and illustrated by Mohammed Sami. Of all the عالم سمسم books, this is the simplest, most straightforward, and best for baby. I don’t think it’s available in board book or hard-paper edition, but that also means it’s not as expensive as the other titles listed above. A brightly colored Nimnim paints a tree, flowers, a sun, clouds, birds, and finally his friends Khokha and Felfel. (Dar El Shorouk)
What more does my two-year-old suggest?
- Books with babies in them! Babies love looking at pictures of babies.
- More books with rhyme and cadence, in the spirit of بابا جي أمتي, Jamberry, Snuggle Puppy, and Wheels on the Bus.
Where are the books from Lebanon? Where’s last year’s Etisalat winner, Ana Aheb? There seem to be relatively few children’s books that cross national borders, although the new kids-only bookstore in Giza promises to stock titles from around the Arabic-writing world.
But what about all the Kalimat titles? There are more lovely books from Kalimat (you can peruse them here, and even look inside), but they tend to be 50LE+ here in Cairo, so those are a holiday-only occurrence in this household.
Please feel free to post the books your baby loves best below!