Everyone knows that reading to young children is one of the best things you can do as a parent, but which books should you choose? With so many great looking choices, it can be overwhelming.

According to the Montessori philosophy, books for young children should focus on reality. Maria Montessori believed that young children are still very much trying to figure out how the real world works and thus aren't yet ready for fantasy developed by adults. That means no talking animals, no monsters, no super powers.

This rules out a lot of books, so what's left?

Montessori bookshelves for young children focus on nature, messages of peace and diversity, and things going on in a child's world like life in a city, the changing seasons and family life.

There are also plenty of Montessori-friendly fiction books for young children, they just focus on things that could actually happen, versus fantasy.

Here are some of our favorites.

Birth-18 Months

1. Black and White

Full of simple, black and white images, this book folds out and stands up on its own so that baby can look at the pictures independently without an adult holding the book. My baby loved this book almost as soon as we brought him home from the hospital.

Buy on Amazon, $7.99

2. Art for Baby

Larger than most board books, this one features beautiful black and white images by well-known artists. High contrast images featuring black, white, and red, are easier for newborns to see and focus on while their eyes continue to develop.

Buy on Amazon, $16.99

3. Global Babies

Babies love looking at photographs of people, and especially of other babies. Global Babies is full of beautiful images of babies from around the world, and also has a lovely message of peace.

Buy on Amazon, $6.95

4. Smile

This is another great board book featuring lots of interesting photographs of babies.

Buy on Amazon, $4.99

5. I See

This book features realistic drawings of things a baby might see in his world. It has few words and is a good length for a young baby.

Buy on Amazon, $3.99

6. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

This is another great one by Helen Oxenbury and features images of babies from around the world and a simple rhythmic, rhyming story.

Buy on Amazon, $8.99

7. Touch and Feel Farm

There are many books in this touch and feel series and each includes simple photographs with textured sections for baby to feel.

Buy on Amazon, $6.99

8. My First Words

I admit these are not my favorite books to read as a parent, but babies love them and they are a great way to expand vocabulary. For this type of book, I look for options that do not have an overwhelming number of objects on each page.

Buy on Amazon, $5.99

9. Hands Can

This is a nice size for a board book and features beautiful images of all of the positive things we can use our hands for.

Buy on Amazon, $7.99

10. Eating the Rainbow

This is a fun one to introduce once baby becomes interested in food.

Buy on Amazon, $6.99

11. Big Red Barn

By the same author as Goodnight Moon, this classic tells a simple story about animals living on a farm.

Buy on Amazon, $6.49

18 Months-3 Years

1. Tom and Pippo Go for a Walk

This is a great example of fiction that does not involve fantasy. It is a simple story about something in a child's life.

Buy on Amazon, $8.00

2. The Napping House

This book is fun and whimsical and has a repetitive, sing song style that really appeals to young children.

Buy on Amazon, $6.86

3. One Gorilla

This simple counting book is filled with beautiful, captivating images of different primates.

Buy on Amazon, $7.99

4. Butterfly Colors and Counting

This is another great nature-based counting option.

Buy on Amazon, $5.95

5. Opposite Surprise

This fun lift-the-flap book introduces the concept of opposites.

Buy on Amazon, $11.08

6. Roadwork

Many toddlers are fascinated with how the world works, including simple things like garbage trucks and construction. This book includes lots of fun sound words and explains how roads are built.

Buy on Amazon, $6.99

7. All by Myself!

Gaining independence is often the number one thing on a toddler's agenda. This fun book celebrates all of the daily tasks children can learn to do independently.

Buy on Amazon, $5.57

8. Henry Helps with Dinner

The whole Henry Helps series is great for encouraging children to help with the chores of everyday life.

Buy on Amazon, $5.95

9. Houses and Homes

This beautiful book features photographs of homes from all over the world and includes simple text perfect for a toddler.

Buy on Amazon, $7.95

10. Home

This is another great choice about different types of homes.

Buy on Amazon, $7.32

11. Shades of People

Displaying photographs of children from around the world, this book is a great way to start talking about diversity with a young child.

Buy on Amazon, $7.99

12. The Skin you Live in

This is also a fun option for a book on diversity.

Buy on Amazon, $13.17

13. Whoever You Are

Beautifully illustrated, this book shares a message of peace, emphasizing what we all have in common despite our different appearances.

Buy on Amazon, $3.99

3-6 Years

1. They All Saw a Cat

Winner of the Caldecott medal, They All Saw a Cat depicts the many perspectives through which animals and people view the world.

Buy on Amazon, $9.50

2. The Dot

If your child ever says “I can't," this is a great book to add to your library. It tells a story of a child who claims she cannot draw, but finds her own creative spark in the end.

Buy on Amazon, $11.59

3. Last Stop on Market Street

Through a story about a boy and his grandmother taking the bus home, this book sends a beautiful message about what really matters in life.

Buy on Amazon, $13.49

4. The Black Book of Colors

The illustrations in this book are done with raised lines and its pages are filled with vivid descriptions of colors.

Buy on Amazon, $15.70

5. Before After

This funny, thought-provoking book leads young readers to think about the passage of time, while also captivating them with its striking images.

Buy on Amazon, $16.34

6. Winter on the Farm

There is an entire series of Little House books, inspired by Laura Ingles Wilder's classics, but tailored to younger audiences. These books help children imagine what it would be like to live in a different time.

Buy on Amazon, $6.99

7. Same, Same but different

This story follows two young pen pals as they discover all of the interesting things that are different in their respective worlds, and all of the fundamental things that are the same.

Buy on Amazon, $15.09

8. A Little Peace

Against a backdrop of beautiful National Geographic photographs, the text of this book shares an important message of peace with children.

Buy on Amazon, $12.13

9. Somewhere in the World Right Now

Both the images and the prose in this book ignite a curiosity about geography and the world.

Buy on Amazon, $7.30

10. Children of the World

Through including pictures and poems created by children around the world, this book really helps children relate to their global peers in a new way.

Buy on Amazon, $41.00

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