20 books you absolutely have to read with your 1 year old

When my daughter, Emma, was one year old, I put together a list of over 200 books that I wanted to read with her before she turned 2. And then we read them. All of them. And then some more. It was awesome.

A few weeks ago, I shared our favorite
100 of those books in a post
called The best 100 books for a 1 year old. (I also created a printable list of those books- download it if you haven't already! It's a great resource.)

Today, I wanted to share a little bit more about my favorite favorite books for a 1 year old- the ones that we read over and over again during that year. The ones that Emma tucked into bed next to her at night. The ones that I bought because the library wouldn't let us renew them for a fourth time.
20 books you absolutely have to read with your 1 year old. Click to see the full list of these 20 must-reads, selected by a mom and her daughter from over 200 recommended toddler books.
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You've got to check out these books. The first 17 are our top favorites from the list I already published. Just for fun, the last 3 are bonus books (and in one case a magazine) that aren't on the original list. In each book description you'll find the Amazon book summary as well as the Amazon book links, which are affiliates. (Read my full disclosure statement here.) Take a look!

Oh, and if you're looking ahead for books to read with a TWO year old... I've got that for you too!


100 First Words (My Big Book of Lift and Learn)
by Tiger Tales

"Encourage your child to observe and explore our world with this bright, colorful board book! Striking photographs feature familiar animals, toys, clothes, food, and more. Comprised of more than 100 words and pictures, this interactive book is an excellent way to help your child build essential vocabulary skills by lifting the flaps and describing what he or she sees."

When we took Emma on her first airplane trip, this was the one book I chose to bring along on the plane. Which is saying something, because it's a really big book. Each page has flaps with photographs of common words. When Emma turned one she knew only a handful of them, and by the time she turned two she knew them all.

Emma shows her Pappy how to lift the flaps in 100 First Words


Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
by Mo Willems

"When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place- a pigeon! But you've never met one like this before. As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate."

This is the first book in a very popular series. It's simple, but hilarious. I actually don't get tired of reading this one over and over because it's so funny to hear Emma tell the pigeon, "NO!" when he asks whether or not he can drive the bus.


Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!
by Mo Willems

"It's getting dark out, but one stubborn Pigeon is NOT going to bed! Children will love this interactive bedtime romp, which puts readers back in the driver's seat, deflecting Pigeon's sly trickery as he tries to escape his inevitable bedtime. Will you let him stay up late?"

This is my favorite in the whole Pigeon series. I think the pigeon is hilarious, and so does Emma. We enjoy laughing at him together. :)


Go, Dog. Go!
by P.D. Eastman

"Reading goes to the dogs in this timeless Beginner Book edited by Dr. Seuss. From big dogs and little dogs to red, green, and blue dogs, dogs going up and dogs going fast . . . who knew dogs were so busy?"

This was one of my favorites as a little girl, and I'm delighted that Emma also loves it. Each page has fun pictures and simple phrases that Emma quickly started memorizing. She learned many of her colors from this book, as well as how a stoplight works: "Green means go! Red means stop!"


Good Night, Gorilla
by Peggy Rathmann

"Good night, Gorilla. Good night, Elephant. 
It's bedtime at the zoo, and all the animals are going to sleep. Or are they? Who's that short, furry guy with the key in his hand and the mischievous grin?"

The pictures in this book tell the story, making it PERFECT for toddlers who can't read on their own yet. Emma loved naming all the animals and talking about what she saw in the pictures. I think the story is pretty clever, too!


Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Tom Lichtenheld

"As the sun sets behind the big construction site, all the hardworking trucks get ready to say goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their work and lie down to rest—so they'll be ready for another day of rough and tough construction play!"

A lot of toddlers I know love vehicles. Emma has always been really interested in trains and firetrucks. If that sounds like your child, then this is the perfect bedtime story choice. The story is sweet and easy to love, and it won Emma's heart because it's chock full of construction vehicles. 


How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?
by Jane Yolen

"Brimming with humor and familiar good-night antics, here is a playful peek into the homes of dinosaur children and their parents at bedtime. Perfect for sharing and reading aloud, this is one nighttime book your own little dinosaur will want to read again and again."

There are lots of books in this series, but this one is my personal favorite. I think the pictures are hilarious. I wonder if they authors have toddlers themselves, because they are spot-on with their descriptions of the things that naughty little dinosaurs might do to get out of going to bed!


I Love You, Stinky Face
by Lisa Mccourt

"Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore beautifully weave a reassuring tale of the love and affection of a parent. The imaginative son turns himself into a meat-eating dinosaur, a swamp creature and much, much more before being satisfied with the fact that no matter how stinky he is or how slimy of a creature he could possibly be, he is loved and nothing will change that."

This book is so sweet and so silly that it's perfect for both toddlers and parents. Emma likes looking at the detailed illustrations and asking questions about all of the crazy animals and monsters, and I find the story delightfully heart-warming. 


Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
by Mo Willems

"Trixie, Daddy, and Knuffle Bunny take a trip to the neighborhood Laundromat. But the exciting adventure takes a dramatic turn when Trixie realizes somebunny was left behind. Using a combination of muted black-and-white photographs and expressive illustrations, this stunning book tells a brilliantly true-to-life tale about what happens when Daddy's in charge and things go terribly, hilariously wrong."

This is another book where the illustrations tell the story- again, great for toddlers who aren't reading yet but love to talk about what they see in the pictures. Emma has a baby doll that she takes with her everywhere, so we understand exactly how traumatic it must have been for Trixie to lose her stuffed bunny!


Little Blue Truck
by Alice Schertle, Jill McElmurry

"Little Blue Truck is a joyful cacophony of animal and truck sounds that will have youngsters beeping and quacking—and begging for one more go-round! Along the way, readers see that it pays to be kind to our animal friends . . . if we show a friendly respect to others, we’re more likely to get help when we’re, say, stuck in the muck in a truck."

You know how some books just have a great flow to them? This is one of those. The rhymes are perfect, and it's easy to read. Emma loves to chime in when it comes to the animal noises!


Llama Llama Red Pajama
by Anna Dewdney  

"In this infectious rhyming read-aloud, Baby Llama turns bedtime into an all-out llama drama! Tucked into bed by his mama, Baby Llama immediately starts worrying when she goes downstairs, and his soft whimpers turn to hollers when she doesn't come right back. But just in time, Mama returns to set things right. Children will relate to Baby Llama's need for comfort, as much as parents will appreciate Mama Llama's reassuring message."

This book makes me laugh because the llama reminds me of my little girl and all the bedtime shenanigans she likes to try to pull. I think Emma just likes the silly rhymes. This is a great story for right before bed.


My Big Book of Lift and Learn: 100 First Animals
by Caterpillar Books  

"Encourage your child to observe and explore our world with this bright, colorful board book! Striking photographs feature familiar animals, toys, clothes, food, and more. Comprised of more than 100 words and pictures, this interactive book is an excellent way to help your child build essential vocabulary skills by lifting the flaps and describing what he or she sees."

We bought this book because we read 100 First Words so many times that it was literally falling apart. This book turned out to be just as much a hit as that one. It really helped Emma learn her animals- and not just cat, dog and cow. There are some pretty unique animals in here! She was especially interested in this book after we took a trip to the zoo and she was able to see a lot of these animals in person.
Emma explores the desert page of 100 First Animals


No, David!
by David Shannon  

"Over fifteen years after its initial publication, NO, DAVID! remains a perennial household favorite, delighting children, parents, and teachers alike. David is a beloved character, whose unabashed good humor, mischievous smile, and laughter-inducing antics underline the love parents have for their children--even when they misbehave."

I wonder why kids (and parents) enjoy books about naughty little children so much. Maybe because we can relate so well. Emma loves to tell David how naughty he's being. I think it's really funny to hear her telling off an illustration for doing something that she did herself just that morning!


Pottytime for Chickies
by Janee Trasler  

"Learning to go potty is tricky for the Chickies! With engaging rhymes, endearing illustrations, and a soft padded cover, this book is perfect for babies and toddlers to enjoy."

We must have read this book every night for about a month straight. There are a lot of potty books out there, but this one is my favorite. It's cute and silly, and it was a fun way to start getting Emma talking about the potty. 


The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle  

"The classic edition of the bestselling story written for the very young. A newly hatched caterpillar eats his way through all kinds of food."

This book is a popular classic, and it's no wonder why. Emma likes sticking her fingers in the holes that the caterpillar has eaten through, and she quickly learned the names of all the foods in the story. I love that it teaches kids the days of the week and includes a little science lesson on metamorphosis.

The very hungry caterpillar ate through 4 strawberries and 5 oranges.


Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems  

"Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to. Gerald and Piggie are best friends. In Waiting Is Not Easy!, Piggie has a surprise for Gerald, but he is going to have to wait for it. And Wait. And wait some more..."

A topic that any toddler understands well! No, waiting isn't easy. Emma can relate. This story is told entirely in cartoon speech bubbles, which I think is fun, too.


Where Is Baby's Belly Button? A Lift-the-Flap Book
by Karen Katz  

"Karen Katz's adorable babies play peekaboo in this delightful interactive book. The sturdy format and easy-to-lift flaps are perfect for parents and children to share."

Emma learned many of her body parts from this book. She really liked anything with pictures of babies in it for a long time, so this book was a huge hit!


A Family and Friends Photo Book  

I made Emma a photo book for her first birthday with one family member or friend’s photo on each page. It was really easy to make, and she reads it over and over. We have spent so much time looking at each page and talking about the people that she loves. Not a book you’ll find in your local library, but definitely a winner (and a great first birthday idea!)


Any boxed set of small board books

Emma loves these books. Each one is about the same size as her hand- they're tiny! Which is why she loves them so much. She does like the stories (which are about 20 words each!) but she really likes to carry these books around, tuck them into her play purse, fill her toy shopping cart with them, etc. These book sets are perfect for tiny hands, and no matter which set you choose, it's sure to be a hit.

Emma loves her tiny board books!


Hello Magazine (Highlights magazine subscription, ages 0-2)

Emma’s grandparents bought her a subscription to this baby magazine as a gift. The "magazines" are small and toddler-proof (think thick, unrippable, waterproof pages.) They’re full of age-appropriate “articles” including pictures of baby faces, songs, poems, and Emma’s favorite: a find the item page. We loved getting this magazine every month, and since the magazines are so durable, I saved every issue and will reread them with my next child.

Emma reading to her little sister- another future book lover!
So if you have a one year old (or know one!) I would HIGHLY recommend checking out each and every one of these books. Which ones are your favorites? Let me know in the comments! And if you loved this list, be sure to share it on Facebook or pin the image below to Pinterest. Happy reading!
Top 20 best books for a 1 year old. Click to see the full list of these 20 must-reads, selected by a mom and her daughter from over 200 recommended toddler books.

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