Favorite Kids Books (incl. Custom & Bilingual reads)

best toddler books pottery barn anywhere chair

Kids bookshelf (similar), Pottery Barn Chair, Kroma washable rug // On me: A+F sweatshirt xxs, shorts xs. On Nori: M + A top 18-24m (runs small)

When Nori was a newborn, we’d read to her in the baby bouncer, during tummy time, and also when she was pulling herself up and standing along the railings of her playpen (which was actually a great way to read to them once semi-mobile, otherwise she’d probably just wander off and get distracted!). It’s amazing how much little ones absorb even when you think they might not be paying attention.

Below are a few books that our family loves – this list includes a mix of personalized books, fun learning ones, and some classics! Nori is 19 months now so I included a few notes on whether some of these books are suitable for infants, younger or older toddlers.

Book type note: If you’re debating between the different book formats, hardcover usually indicates a bigger sized hardcover book with thinner paper pages, while board books are typically smaller but made of sturdier cardboard pages that are easier for little baby or toddler fingers to flip (and less easy to destroy!).

Bilingual note: One way I incorporate a second language into our daily routine is just by “reading” her English books in Chinese (except the ones with catchy rhythms like Pout Pout Fish). I just interpret the images and describe to her what’s happening on each page using Chinese, and over time she’s picked up a lot of it! I’ve done this since birth whenever I read to her, and Nick will read the same books to her in English.

customizable personalized toddler kids books

1. Customizable


from Artifact Uprising
Book type: Small board book

We made one of these books for Nori, and received so many questions when I shared it on IG stories! The durable, smaller (but not too small) size is just right for little hands and is easy to flip. Making one of these can be a fun quarantine project – depending on how much time you want to spend, you can use a pre-existing theme like “People” and just upload some photos (a nice way to keep images of friends and family familiar for your little one). Or, choose “Custom” and you can create a story book from scratch with your own title and storyline on each page (which Nick quite enjoyed doing). We made one about our previous weekend trips to Chinatown and the park, which has been a small way of living that routine vicariously while at home!

PS – Nick also made me a beautiful photo album book from this website last Mother’s Day!

artifact uprising custom personalized baby board books

My Trip to the Alphabet Zoo

from Shutterfly (see all of their personalizable kids books)
Book type: Hardcover with regular paper pages

Super quick and easy to make or send as a gift! Personalization options include the main character’s skin color, hair color, gender, name, the name of their favorite doll / stuffed animal, and selecting a location for the zoo (under the “Story Extras” tab). You can also upload a photo and a personal message for the inside cover page. The main character’s stuffed animal goes missing during the zoo trip, snatched by a mischievous monkey, and is hidden on each page (Nori squeals when she finds it in every scene!). For actual reading, the length of this book is probably better suited for preschoolers, but the imagery is plenty fun for toddlers.

shutterfly personalized custom kids books

2. Learning

Roger Priddy books

All the Priddy books seem great for various stages of learning (words, ABC’s, colors, numbers, etc.). They feature actual photographs of the items instead of illustrated images, and I’ve been told by many childhood development friends that this is good for helping kids make connections between books and real life objects and experiences. There are a LOT of titles to choose from, but these are the ones we have:

First 100 Words Lift-the-Flap(also avail. in a small board book with no flaps)
Book type: Hardcover with thicker paper pages

Let me start by saying the paper flaps on this book are easy to rip out (we’ve had to tape and re-tape quite a few!), not all of the words are relevant or useful, and some of the images look a few decades old. All that being said, Nori was obsessed with this book starting at around 8 months old. I would collect real objects around the house (i.e. keys, a cup, a banana) in a bin and show her the book images versus the real objects one by one while I read, to help make the connection.

best baby and toddler books for learning words numbers

My First Numbers: Let’s Get Counting
Book type: Large board book

Better quality with better imagery than the 100 words book, this one is a sturdy, generously-sized board book with tabbed pages that make it even easier to flip. We love the vibrant graphics on this one which includes a lot of familiar animals, objects, and colors, so it’s easy to interact with your little one and discuss / ask questions on each page, aside from just counting numbers! We got this a few months ago to start counting regularly to her in both English and Chinese. At 19 months she doesn’t really count yet, but I know she’s picking up bits and pieces.

best toddler numbers counting book roger priddy


Book type: Board books available in English – Spanish, or English – Mandarin Chinese

We received these as a gift from a startup run by two mamas raising bilingual children. I’ve lost count of how many inquiries I get every time I show these on IG! You can purchase the books individually or as part of a set with a reading wand, which speaks the words (and uses it in a phrase) or sentences out loud as you tap over parts of each page. Our favorite titles so far are the Book of First Words and the Book of Careers (Moms) which has a nice variety of occupations in diverse fields, including entrepreneur, product manager, and “chief home officer” among more traditional career paths!

bilingual kids toddler books spanish chinese

Note, the wand is harder for babies and younger toddlers to use themselves (due to precision of tapping as well as their shorter attention spans), so that feature is better suited for older toddlers / kids or for the adult reading the book to little ones. My only other comment is that some of the phrases in the Mandarin Chinese books are not as colloquial or how Chinese-speakers I know would say them, but overall these books are a great concept!

mandarin chinese bilingual books for toddlers kids

3. Fun Reads

Littles and How They Grow

by Kelly DiPucchio and AG Ford
Book type: Board book or hardcover 

A sweet book with lovely, inclusive and modern illustrations that was a gift from a thoughtful reader, Children’s Book Reviews. Its simple, flowy rhyme scheme makes it a nice bedtime read starting from the infant stage. Nori can hardly contain herself as she shouts “lil-lows! lil-lows!” pretty much every night now for this book, and I think it’s because she can relate to a lot of things the littles do in the book as they grow from newborns through toddlerhood. I like that there’s a lot of diversity in the illustrations, including parenting roles by both moms and dads, ethnic as well as family type (and the majority of low reviews on Amazon are actually complaints about how one of the illustrations shows a child with same-sex parents).

best diverse childrens books for babies and toddlers

BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR (slide and peek version)

by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr
Book type: Board book or hardcover (NOTE: only “board book” has the fun slide & peek feature!)

A classic that we’ve read since Nori was a newborn because of the vivid, high contrast images for developing little eyes. This was one of the few books that would hold Nori’s attention when we read to her as an infant sitting in her bouncer, and now that she’s becoming more verbal she still loves to thumb through and identify the simple animals and colors. I’d recommend the “Slide and Peek” version linked, which I saw at a friend’s house. It’s a little more engaging for little ones – I know Nori loves anything with a slide or a flap, and slides aren’t as easily destroyed!

Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night?

by Brianna Caplan Sayres and Christian Slade
Book type: Board book or hardcover

This and Littles have been Nori’s choice almost nightly at bedtime these days. Each train type is a caregiver with little one(s), and Nori always identifies herself as a baby train and will assign either Nick or I to the bigger train on each page. Nick appreciates that this book is actually written well and has a very catchy cadence. Also, on each page there is a little mouse (the “conductor”), which Nori delights in looking for each time I flip the page. Also note, though, the spin-off books (like Where do Diggers Sleep at Night) are not quite as good.

favorite multi cultural bilingual chinese toddler kids books

What’s your little one’s favorite book? We love learning about new reads!

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When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

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