Reading to the Bump: Tips & Books for Expecting Parents

Reading to baby in utero

Expecting a little bundle of joy soon?  Research suggests that babies listen and learn in the womb, and a breakthrough study has found that babies can learn to recognize words in utero. But don’t go running out to purchase headphones and an audio recording of Webster’s Dictionary or Rosetta Stone for your growing belly. Baby can benefit from language learning from simply hearing everyday sounds, including mother’s voice. This research is on-going, so although it is exciting, nothing has been determined conclusively.

That said, there are a few other reasons outside of this exciting research as to why reading aloud to your unborn child is a positive experience for parent and baby:

  • Bonding: Whether you already feel a strong emotional attachments to baby or are feeling a bit detached from the entire prenatal experience, reading aloud to your bump is a great opportunity to bond with your child.
  • Taking time to relax: Taking 2 or 5 or 10 minutes out of your day to put your feet up and unwind is good for anyone, but it is especially good for pregnant women. Eliminating stress is key in any pregnancy.
  • Start the ritual of reading aloud: Even though evidence of in utero learning is on the fence, what we do know is one of the best things you can do for your child once he or she is born is to read to them often. What better time to start than now?

I read aloud to my first daughter before she was born, and currently I read aloud to my baby on the way. With my first pregnancy, despite the physical changes my body was going through, I felt extremely disconnected to the little human growing inside. I was worried I wasn’t equipped with the mom gene, and that I was already failing inmy new role. Reading aloud helped me engage my pregnancy in a way that made me feel less removed. Also, by the time baby is born he/she will be able to recognize their mother’s voice. It is unclear if they can recognize other voices, but  there is evidence that when you read aloud, you’re baby is listening. It was reassuring to know that she could hear me and we could share a story or poem together.

If you’re interested in reading aloud to baby-to-be, or know of someone who is, here are a few tips:

  • It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. This is suppose to be a relaxing, relationship building activity, so you make the schedule. For example, I would only read about 10 minutes of the same book aloud every other day or so.
  • Pick something you want to read. I’ve complied a list of book suggestions based on a few of my favorites, as well as recommendations from other parents and librarians, but you don’t have to pick a book from this list and it doesn’t have to be a kids book. Read what you like! The list is merely a guide if you’re interested in becoming familiar with children’s books.
  • If you have other children, ask them to pick out a book you can all sit read together with baby.
  • Ask your partner to get involved, and to read aloud to baby. It’s likely that baby won’t hear voices other than mom nearly as well. This part of research is still quite foggy, but it doesn’t hurt. Plus, it can be a bonding experience for everyone.
  • Have fun! Don’t worry about feeling awkward or mispronouncing words. Baby isn’t going to judge. This is between the two of you!

Did you receive 3 or 4 copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at your baby shower? Looking for some new reading material? As I mentioned earlier, with the help of a few wonderful parents and librarian friends, I’ve created a book list  for expecting parents looking to read to their baby in utero. Think of it as a starter list for those interested in diving into the vast and wonderful world of children’s literature. There are many different types of books from picture to poetry to chapter books, a sampling of books with rhyme and rhythm, excellent early literacy devices, and also a sampling of favorite timeless stories. Enjoy!

Books List for Reading to Baby In Utero

Picture Books & Early Readers

The House in the Night

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Beautiful illustrations with beautiful verse. This Caldecott winning picture book is a wonderful, short read-aloud.

(recommended by @storytiming)

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett

The classic nursery rhyme illustrated by one of the most celebrated children’s book illustrators.

(recommended by @MelissaZD)

All the World

All the World by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Lovely rhyming verse about  one family’s day together.

(recommended by @PoesyGalore @MelissaZD)


Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Another picture book illustrated by the talented Marla Frazee.


Jamberry by Bruce Degen

A colorful, sing song story about a bear, a boy, and berries.

(recommended by @iamemmamusic)

A Good Day

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes

A book that teaches it’s reader all about perspective.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes By Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

(recommended by @iamemmamusic)

The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson

This classic is a favorite storytime book for a couple of the librarians I work with. We adore Ferdinand’s gentle heart.

The Hello, Goodbye Window

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, illustrated b Chris Raschka

Two kid lit greats – Norton Juster and Chris Rashka – produced a gorgous and playful book about a little girl and her grandparents.

(recommended by @MelissaZD)

Little Bear

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Adorable early reader book about a curious little bear, his parents, his friends, and their adventures. Also recommend A Kiss for Little Bear, Father Bear Comes Home, Little Bear’s Visit, and Little Bear’s Friend.

There Is a Bird on Your Head!

There Is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems

Pee-your-pants-hilarious duo, Elephant & Piggie books are as loved by  adults as they are children. Also try, Should I Share My Ice Cream?, I Am Invited to a Party!, I Broke My Trunk!, Let’s Go for a Drive!, and more!… all Elephant & Piggie books!

(recommended by @MelissaZD)

Curious George

A silly tale about a silly little monkey that both you and your future monkey will enjoy.

(recommended by @cbsundance)



When We Were Very Young

When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne

A collection of darling poetry by the author of the Winnie the Pooh books.

Here's a Little Poem

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fussek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

A collection of short poetry from various children’s book authors and poets or both. This is a great book to use once baby is born too.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstien

Humorous rhymes by one of the most celebrated children’s poets of all time. Also be sure to check out A Light in the Attic and Falling Up.

(recommended by @gcaserotti)


Chapter Books

My Father's Dragon

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett

This book is very short, yet very charming; a read about a young boy that runs away from home to rescue a dragon, and finds himself  on Wild Island, inhabited by many animals. This one quickly captures the imagination.

(recommended by @MelissaZD)

The Animal Family

The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

My husband and I read this book to my soon to be due any day now. It’s a wonderful story about a family of misfits that you fall for within moments of reading.

(recommended by @MelissaZD)

The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

A fantastical tale of an aviator who meets a little prince and their adventures trying to seek out the secret of what is important in life.

(recommended by @gcaserotti)


Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

Everyone’s favorite bear. If you’ve never taken time to read the actual book, you are surely in for a treat. Rich and full of depth, you’d never know a silly ol’ bear was so full of wisdom.

(recommended by  @gcaserotti)


Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

This read is as sweet as can be. A unique, 8-year-old girl who seems to get herself in a whole lot of trouble.

(recommended by @MelissaZD @gcaserotti)

James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

You can’t go wrong with a book by Roald Dahl (Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox). This is one of his shorter chapter books, yet possesses all the magic and whims you find within the pages of all his books.

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams

A heart-warming story that about the friendship between a pig and a spider, and how they attempt to change fate.

Ginger Pye

Ginger Pye by Elanor Estes

A pup named Ginger goes missing, and a mysterious man appears in the lives of the Pye family.

(recommended by @iamemmamusic)

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

The story of one china doll rabbit and the power of love. “Someone will come for you, but first you must open your heart…” I planned to read this book to the bump in the short time I have left before she is born.



Looking for more books to add to your repertoire? Check out Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac and Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush for even more children’s book suggestions.

Have any books that you’d like to add to the list or experiences of your own?  Please share in the comments below!


11 Responses to “Reading to the Bump: Tips & Books for Expecting Parents”

  1. Belinda says:

    thank you for the list! I never heard of The Animal Family–I’ll definitely look into it.

    I hope everything goes smoothly with baby #2’s entrance into the world! :)


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