How Babies Choose Books

Elizabeth Bluemle -- July 9th, 2019

© Pawel Strykowski |

As you might imagine, babies are a special kind of bookstore customer, with very particular browsing habits.

The first thing to look for, if you are a baby choosing a new book to read in a bookstore, is how a book feels under your feet. A good board book should offer a satisfying one-footed slide, and a good hardcover picture book should allow both feet good purchase for a long scoot or stand. The bookstore lady might come over and help you off the book when the scoot is over. Why does she always put the book way up high?

The next criterion is to find the right authors. In the board book section, that means those whose last names start with P-Z. Only the tall people can reach A-O. Fortunately, this means Leslie Patricelli is within reach. Yay, Yummy Yucky!

Shelf placement is also critical in the rest of the store. The bottom two shelves of the picture book cases and Award Winners are key, and you can reach all the alphabet books and the transportation section, plus the N-Z animals in Nature. Books are most fun in a pile, so pull out as many as you can from those bottom shelves. Tipping books out is one of the world’s most fun activities, second only maybe to banging spoons or climbing into boxes. Just watch out for the books’ sharp corners! Sometimes they bop you on the way out of the shelf.

If books are in a spinner, spin that thing as fast as your chubby little hands can make it go. Your older brothers and sisters can and will do this faster than you, but even a slower spin can reveal a book you want to read.

Look for books you already have at home. They’re like a silent recommendation from the bookstore, confirming your excellent taste. Grasp onto Good Dog, Carl like your life depends upon it, and wail with heartbreak if Mommy tries to pry it out of your hands. Maybe there is only one copy of Good Dog, Carl in the world. You’re not sure how it got to the bookstore from home, but it is YOURS, and you need it!

© Kamila Starzycka |

Toddle into the adult fiction section. There is definitely something there for you, and the books topple there from the bottom shelves just as well as they do in the picture book section. They’re heavier, though, so they are a challenge to pull off the shelf, and a little exhausting. Take a break and plop down by the man who is browsing Kurt Vonnegut. He doesn’t look like someone who sees babies all that often, so tug on his shoelace to let him know you’re friendly.

When it’s time to go home, Mommy or Daddy will let you know by scooping you up with the board book you’re chewing on. Board books have the best round corners for teething! Just enough resistance and give. If the bite marks are visible enough, usually your parent will realize that’s the book you have ultimately chosen.

Wave bye-bye to all the smiling bookstore people and the soft bookstore dragon you like to hug. Show off your new tooth, and burble happily as you sail out of the store with something new to read and chew and scoot on. With luck, you’ll be back soon for more!

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