Jacob loves books. His mom
knows this because when she sits down to read to him every night, he waves his
His favorite page of "Goodnight
Moon" shows a cow jumping over the moon. He squeals and reaches for the book
every time he sees it. When she is done reading, his mom usually lets him hold
the sturdy board book, which he promptly sticks into his mouth.
Jacob is only 6 months old, but
he is already well on his way to becoming a reader.
Read to My Baby?
You may wonder about the
benefits of reading to your baby. Clearly an infant can't understand what you're
doing or why. But you wouldn't wait until your child could understand what you
were saying before you started speaking to him or her, right? And you wouldn't
bypass lullabies until your baby could carry a tune or wait until he or she
could shake a rattle before you offered any toys.
Reading aloud to your baby is a
wonderful shared activity you can continue for years to come — and it's an
important form of stimulation.
teaches a baby about
introduces concepts such as
numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way
builds listening, memory,
and vocabulary skills
gives babies information
about the world around them
Believe it or not, by the time
babies reach their first birthday they will have learned all the sounds needed
to speak their native language. The more stories you read aloud, the more words
your child will be exposed to and the better he or she will be able to talk.
Hearing words helps to imprint them on a baby's brain. Kids Gifts whose parents
frequently talk/read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not
been read to. And Kids Gifts who are read to during their early years are more
likely to learn to read at the right time.
When reading, your child
hears you using many different emotions and expressive sounds, which fosters
social and emotional development. Reading also invites your baby to look, point,
touch, and answer questions — all of which promote social development and
And your baby improves language
skills by imitating sounds, recognizing images, and learning words.
But perhaps the most important
reason to read aloud is that it makes a connection between the things your baby
loves the most — your voice and closeness to you — and books. Spending time
reading to your baby shows that reading is a skill worth learning.
Different Ages, Different Stages
Young babies may not know what
the images in a book mean, but they can focus on them, especially faces, bright
colors, and contrasting patterns. Read or sing lullabies and nursery rhymes to
interest and soothe your infant.
Between 4 and 6 months, your
baby may begin to show more interest in books. He or she will grab and hold
books, but will mouth, chew, and drop them as well. Choose sturdy vinyl or cloth
books with bright colors and repetitive or rhyming text.
Between 6 and 12 months, your
child is beginning to understand that pictures represent objects, and most
likely will develop preferences for certain pictures, pages, or even entire
stories. Your baby will respond while you read, grabbing for the book and making
sounds, and by 12 months will turn pages (with some help from you), pat or start
to point to objects on a page, and repeat your sounds.
When and How to
Here's a great thing about
reading aloud: It doesn't take special skills or equipment, just you, your baby,
and some books. Read aloud for a few minutes at a time, but do it often. Don't
worry about finishing entire books — focus on pages that you and your baby
Try to set aside time to read
every day — perhaps before naptime and bedtime. In addition to the pleasure that
cuddling your baby before bed gives both of you, you'll also be making life
easier by establishing a routine. This will help to calm your baby and set
expectations about when it's time to sleep.
It's also good to read at other
points in the day. Choose times when your baby is dry, fed, and alert. Books
also come in handy when you're stuck waiting, so have some in the diaper bag to
fill time sitting at the doctor's office or standing in line at the grocery
Here are some additional
Cuddling while you read
helps your baby feel safe, warm, and connected to you.
Read with expression,
pitching your voice higher or lower where it's appropriate or using different
voices for different characters.
Don't worry about following
the text exactly. Stop once in a while and ask questions or make comments on the
pictures or text. ("Where's the kitty? There he is! What a cute black kitty.")
Your child might not be able to respond yet, but this lays the groundwork for
doing so later on.
Sing nursery rhymes, make
funny animal sounds, or bounce your baby on your knee — anything that shows that
reading is fun.
Babies love — and learn
from — repetition, so don't be afraid of reading the same books over and over.
When you do so, repeat the same emphasis each time as you would with a familiar
As your baby gets older,
encourage him or her to touch the book or hold sturdier vinyl, cloth, or board
books. You don't want to encourage chewing on books, but by putting them in his
or her mouth, your baby is learning about them, finding out how books feel and
taste — and discovering that they're not edible!
What to Read
Books for babies should have
simple, repetitive text and clear images. During the first few months of life,
your child just likes to hear your voice, so you can read almost anything,
especially books with a sing-song or rhyming text. As your baby gets more
interested in looking at things, choose books with simple pictures against solid
Once your baby begins to grab, read
vinyl or cloth books with faces, bright colors, and shapes. When your baby
begins to respond to what's inside of books, add board books with pictures of
babies or familiar objects like toys. When your child begins to do things like
sit up in the bathtub or eat finger foods, find simple stories about daily
routines like bedtime or bathtime. When talking starts, choose books that invite
babies to repeat simple words or phrases.
Books with mirrors and different
textures (crinkly, soft, scratchy) are also great for this age group, as are
fold-out books that can be propped up, or books with flaps that open for a
surprise. Board books make page turning easier for infants and vinyl or cloth
books can go everywhere — even the tub. Babies of any age like photo albums with
pictures of people they know and love. And every baby should have a collection
of nursery rhymes!
One of the best ways you can ensure
that your little one grows up to be a reader is to have books around your house.
When your baby is old enough to crawl over to a basket of toys and pick one out,
make sure some books are included in the mix.
In addition to the books you own,
take advantage of those you can borrow from the library. Many libraries have
storytime just for babies, too. Don't forget to pick up a book for yourself
while you're there. Reading for pleasure is another way you can be your baby's
reading role model.