Vocabulary Building Books for Babies and Big Kids

The final tip in this boosting early reading skills series is my favorite and probably the simplest:

Read books with words that your kiddos do not yet know.

That’s it. There is not much to it, but I do have a TON of recommendations to help you execute it that I hope you will check out.

Part of the reason I am sharing this tip with you is because I have a confession to make: I used to skip or change some of the bigger words in the books we were reading! I know… scandalous!

But honestly, how many of us have not thought, “He does not know that word. That means he will ask me what it means. That means I will have to explain it. And that means I will never get to go sit on the couch with my glass of wine and finally have an adult moment in my day!”

Here’s what made me change my ways:

  1. In actuality, neither of my boys typically ask what a particular word means. I just assume they will because I am so ready to go sit on the couch!
  2. This quote from Reading Reconsidered, “…the ‘Basic Lexicon’ consists of five thousand words that are used all the time. Eighty-three percent of the words used in coversation between kids and adults come from this group of words, and this does not change drastically as a child ages… [There are an additional five thousand less common words and on top of that are the rare words.] According to a study in the Journal of Child Language, the conversations between adults and ten-year-olds consist of seventeen rare words per thousand. In contrast, a children’s book has thirty rare words per thousand…”

I realized that I was sometimes cheating my boys out of exposure to those rare words that they are not likely to get anywhere other than books.

Trust me, this does not mean that you should start reading to your kids from the thesaurus right this minute! It just means that when you come across those words that they might not know, don’t skip them.

And for the sake of your wine time on the couch, it is not necessary to spend tons of time explaining these words either. Here is what Reading Reconsidered says about the benefits of JUST hearing these rare words:

 “When [kids] have the opportunity to encounter the words themselves, they have already been exposed to a preview of the word. Consequently, [kids] know words before they read them for the first time, and are able to decode them more effectively because they are familiar with the word and how it sounds when read aloud.”

So now the fun part! Here are some of our FAVORITE “wordy” books, organized by age group. The ages are just suggestions for sure! I still read many of the younger books to my oldest son and read some of the older books to the boys when they were babies.

Ages 0 to 1:

A, B, See – by Elizabeth Doyle – Any alphabet book is great for building the earliest vocabulary. This one is gorgeous though, and has so many different things to point out for each letter, so you get more bang for your buck.


That’s Not My Dinosaur – by Usborne – Actually ANY That’s Not My… book is GREAT! They are interactive, they let kids touch and feel the different textures, and they include words like “squashy” and “rough” – which do not seem like very big words, but how often do we say them to kids in every day conversation?

Where’s Spot – by Eric Hill – The interactive hide-and-seek part of this book is so fun! And words like wardrobe! make it even better.

Ages 2 – 3:

What Do People Do? – by Fisher-Price and Little People – Sooooo many flaps to lift and jobs to explore in this one.

Bug in a Rug – by Russell Punter and David Semple – This book is part of a great series for toddlers, babies, and early readers as well! The stories are cute, the rhymes help with word recognition, and the vocabulary is awesome.

The Octonauts and the Only Lonely Monster – by Meomi – This may seem like a strange recommendation from me, given my extreme dislike for books from certain Pup-tastic TV- show-based books in this post. However, I actually think these TV-show-based books are awesome! Just check out this sentence:

“According to these charts from our super quantum computers, there is a huge probability that we are… UNDER ATTACK!”

There are more like this one as well. The show is pretty great too!


Ages 4 – 5:

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember my post about the books by Al Yankovic. If not, go check them out here. The vocabulary and the rhyming and the stories are practically perfect!


The Word Collector – by Peter H. Reynolds – We recently picked this one up at the library and absolutely LOVED it. Though it doesn’t give much context for the words it introduces, it does allow kids to hear so many awesome words and to get excited about words in general!

Fancy Nancy – by Jane O’Connor – Though I haven’t been able to get away with reading many of these to my boys (“That’s a girl book, Mom!”), I do have a couple from my niece that I have been able to sneak in, and they are great!

Ages 6 – 7:

Captain Underpants – by Dav Pilkey – As much as it pains me to admit it (don’t tell my son!), these books really do have great vocabulary (as long as you are okay with some potty humor in your life) and they are really funny! Actually, anything by Dav Pilkey is pretty amazing! You should definitely check him out.

See Inside Your Body – by Katie Daynes – At this age, we have really started to get into nonfiction books and books that present a more specialized vocabulary. This is a great one, but any of the See Inside Series is great for whatever your kiddo is into.

I also wrote a post recently about The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors – by Drew Daywalt. Check out that post for some of the most epic vocabulary we’ve found in a book!


Hey Jack – by – Sally Rippin –  From the Usborne descrption:

“Did you know that Sally Rippin, author of the Billie B. Brown & Hey Jack! books wrote them because her son struggled with reading. Each book is written so that no words cross over onto another page, there are no hyphenated words, and some words appear bigger than others. These books were written with a very specific purpose in mind. One is for a child to pick up the book, look at the page and say “That doesn’t look so hard, I can read that” The other is to give kids 6-8 a fun, engaging story that they can relate to and learn from.”

These books are great for early readers to learn new vocabulary. The words are mostly pretty simple, but the more advanced ones are laid out in a way that allows kids to use the pictures and context to help.

As always, thanks for reading! I hope you found some good suggestions for your kiddos. I would love to hear from you! Add a comment below or find my social media links to the right and let me know if you have found other books with awesome vocabulary to share with your little ones.

*Please note – Usborne is a consultant-based business. If you already have a consultant, contact them to order. If not, this page links to my consultant page.

48 thoughts on “Vocabulary Building Books for Babies and Big Kids

  1. These all look like great books! I’ve found that when I adjust my vocabulary and speak to my kids like I do adults, they are exposed to words they wouldn’t hear otherwise. My 3 and 6 year olds ALWAYS ask me what the words mean. I love being able to sneak in Little language lessons in every day conversation!

    1. That is awesome! I love that they are so curious :). I think because my boys are so into the story (and because we usually read before bed when they are tired even though they won’t admit it!), they don’t usually take the time to ask. Thanks for reading!!

  2. I love this range of books and there are so many that I have never heard of. I can’t wait to check them out and use!

  3. Sam – Thiswaymommy

    My toddlers boys love when I read Dr.Seus books to them. Although they don’t quite understand, they love the rhyming words. Thanks you for again this collection of wonderful books!

    1. Rhyming words help so much with beginning language skills! And even if they are too young to really understand, just hearing the words and associating reading time with fun and comfort is so good for them. Thanks for reading!!

  4. This is such a wonderful post, thank you for sharing it. My daughter is now three years old, and we’ve read books over time, but now she is starting to really get an interest in reading, and last night I made the decision to read her at least one bedtime story a night. Reading to them is so important both emotionally, and mentally. Thank you for the list of books, there are a few on here that we have not read, but intend to read now.

  5. Great list of books! Our family does a lot of reading, and I would love to check these out. Lots of titles I’ve never heard of!

    1. You are so welcome! Isn’t it so cool to see them learn new words?! Thanks for reading :).

    1. Wonderful! Our mornings start way to early for that around here. As a high school teacher, I have to be at work by 7:35am! But we read every night. And you are right, I’m guessing they are learning things we haven’t even thought of :).

  6. I’ve been reading to my son since day one! I started reading from my own books, and still do sometimes while he plays. Exposing him to as much language as I can! Every night we read a picture book too. Plus several throughout the day. Books are his favorite toys at 2-years-old!

    1. That is wonderful! Exposure to as many words as possible is so important. Thanks for reading!!

  7. My kids won’t ask about all the words, but maybe one or two here and there. So, when we read a book over and over, those words stick and a new one is questioned. I have been totally guilty at skipping or downplaying bigger words because most of our reading is before bedtime. But, at least I’m reading to them right? LOL

  8. I was sooo good at reading to my first child and then my with my second I realized I was very minimal on my reading time, BUT what I like most about this post is that my older child can get some new books, increase his vocabulary, and then read to his younger sister.

    1. It is a great one! My son is so into dinosaurs right now. If your little one is too, be on the lookout for a post about some other awesome dino books soon!

  9. Fancy Nancy was definitely one my dd loved when she was younger (And still enjoys at 12)… and talking to them like I do to friends or people my age is what I have always done..

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