I cannot even count the number of times I have talked about how valuable reading can be to your baby’s growth and development, but I recently realized that I haven’t really spent much time explaining WHY it’s important, or HOW to best get started. I’ll go ahead and state the obvious…well TWO obvious points, actually, that go pretty much hand in hand. First, the more words your baby hears, the more words they will begin to recognize and understand over time. Second (and if your imagination is as limited as mine you will definitely relate to this one), reading a book is WAY easier than trying to make up a story, or have an entire conversation with your three month old.
The benefits of reading to your baby
I’ve mentioned before that there are mountains of research about improved standardized test scores, and better performance in math, science, and english once your baby starts school. In addition to that, you are building a solid foundation for learning speaking patterns, both verbal and non-verbal communication, and emotional expression! Probably the most important thing that your baby will learn is that reading time is quality time with mommy or daddy! Sharing positive experiences during reading time will help them associate the two as they get older, thus teaching your child that reading is fun!
How do I read to my baby?
It may seem silly to spend time talking about how to read to your baby, right? Pick up the book and read it…simple! However, we’ve all watched at least one episode of The Peanuts Gang, and heard the teacher speaking. Nobody wants to be read to like that! In order to engage your baby, you need to make reading EXCITING! It will be much more enjoyable for both of you, and believe it or not, seeing your expressions and hearing the rhythm of your voice will help them start to understand what all those words actually mean! Here are a few pointers to get you started:
Make reading part of every day – We all know how important it is to get baby into a routine, especially when it comes to achieving a good quality sleep schedule. Making reading part of nap times or bed time is an excellent way to help cue them that it’s time to get sleepy.
Make it fun! – We talked about this one already. The more animated you are, the better chance you will have of holding your baby’s attention, and help them learn a thing or two! Make the story come alive with funny voices, and use your body as much as you can.
Show your baby the words as you are reading them. Point with your finger as you read the words, or explain pictures on the page. – This will help build associative relationships with the words later.
Ask questions about the story, and use it to engage your baby in conversation.
Don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself – You don’t have to worry about finishing an entire story, or even reading the pages in order. Babies and toddlers can only sit for short periods of time anyway. What’s important is developing a habit.
***PRO TIP!If you’ve got a toddler, make it your idea to stop reading BEFORE you see them getting restless. Ending the reading session before they end it for you will help build a foundation of good manners, being respectful to others, and staying seated until it’s time to get up, which is going to come in handy when they start school!
What should I read to my baby?
Reading to your baby gives you the opportunity to teach them a lot of the basics about colors, letters, numbers, animals, shapes, sizes…you name it! And you can do it all just based on the book you pick! I wouldn’t recommend going all in with Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters right away like my mom did, although, there is nothing wrong with that! Just make sure you cover the easy stuff too! Here are some of Beyla’s favorites:
100 First Series of Books by Roger Priddy – There are several different versions of these board books, to teach your baby about words, animals, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. They are colorful, the pictures are clear, and they are great for pointing and playing! These will get your baby from infancy through kindergarten!
Toes, Ears, and Nose by Karen Katz and Marion Dane Bauer – This one will help your little peanut learn to identify all their little body parts! It’s interactive Lift-the-Flap pages will help keep your kiddo engaged as they get older, by allowing them to guess the word before revealing it on the page!
Peek-A-Boo Forest Soft Book – This one is Beyla’s absolute favorite right now, because even as an infant, she can interact with it. There are so many different textures and even a few sounds to keep her engaged while she holds it in her tiny little hands! Honestly, we haven’t even read it, she just wants to look at the brightly colored pictures, and stick it in her mouth.
Any Dr. Seuss book – I think anyone who has ever picked up one of his books would agree that Dr. Seuss was a creative genius, and the greatest rhymer that ever lived. His books are beautiful to look at, and so great for teaching kids about speaking cadence, rhyming, and using their imaginations.
There are a few pointers to get you started, but honestly, you really can’t go wrong. Any books that have textural elements, lots of faces, and bright, contrasting colors will be great for babies. Once your little one starts to build some dexterity and wants to hold the books on their own, you will definitely want to secure a handful of board books, because those things can take a beating! Remember, you don’t have to spend tons of money to build a great library either. Thrift stores, yard sales, and hand me downs from friends and family are all great places to start. If your NICU stay put a damper on your baby shower plans, that is an excellent opportunity to build your library! If you’ve got all the essentials you need by now, you can have a “book shower”, and ask your friends to help you build your baby’s home library! One thing that we do for all of our friends who are expecting is write a sweet note to the new baby inside of a new book, instead of sending a greeting card. It makes such a great keepsake, and mom and dad don’t have to feel bad about throwing the card away!
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