You’ve probably heard over and over just how important it is to read to your baby every single day. But what exactly is that supposed to look like?
Let’s start by saying that you aren’t actually reading to your baby…you’re reading with them. You are involving them in the process and nurturing a foundational love and appreciation for reading.
It can seem so silly reading to a newborn that isn’t really understanding what you are reading. But, in actuality there are so many benefits, you might just find they outweigh that silly, awkward feeling. After reading this post, you will know:
- why it is important to read to your baby
- when and how you should read to your baby
- the top tips for reading to your baby
- the best books to read to baby
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Why Should You Read to Your Baby?
A lot of research has been done around the importance of reading to your baby. Here are some benefits that really stand out.
As a newborn, your baby is learning to trust you and understand that you are there to meet their needs. Bonding plays a key role in your baby feeling safe and cared for.
When reading to your newest family addition, you’re taking the time to create an experience to spend quality time with your little one. You are connecting with them by holding them and sharing something with them.
It doesn’t matter if your newborn baby understands what you are reading, it is the act of connecting and strengthening the bond between you that matters.
Children of any age aren’t able to learn if they feel unsafe or threatened. By increasing the bond you have with your child from birth, you are providing them with a sense of security, allowing them to release their fears of survival and focus on learning.
One of our basic instincts from birth is to communicate.
Communication can take many forms: orally, through pictures, through words, through body language and facial expression, and through gestures to name a few.
When you are reading to your infant, you are modeling this communication and demonstrating the different ways to communicate.
Boosts Brain Power
Reading with your infant also has the added benefits of boosting brain power and memory. Children need to understand what they are reading, which means they have to use their memory to store and process the information they are taking in.
Even though infants aren’t necessarily comprehending what you read with them, there are still some important skills that they are taking in through the books you share with them.
Introduces Vocabulary and Concepts
Vocabulary is a crucial component of reading and communication. Books can teach so many new words and concepts.
Early exposure to these words and concepts can help your child incorporate these words into their own vocabulary…even if they can’t speak them out loud yet.
The more books that you read, the more vocabulary and concepts you are exposing your child to, providing them the opportunity to acquire more words and have better comprehension when they are reading in the future.
So many books tell stories with characters that help children recognize and process feelings.
Maybe they can relate to a character in a story and see how that character works through a problem that they can try in their own life. Or they might recognize a feeling that someone else has had, which can often lead to ways they can help others.
Raises a Lifelong Reader
By reading every single day and creating a habitual routine around reading, you are demonstrating how important reading is to your life and your family.
When your child sees how much you value reading, they are going to value it too.
When Should You Start Reading to Your Baby?
Despite your exhaustion, you can start reading to your baby on day 1. Now, that probably isn’t feasible, but my point is that you don’t have to wait until your baby reaches a certain age.
Babies can benefit from reading right from infancy even though they might not be understanding what you are reading.
Remember how we talked about bonding? Reading is a great way to strengthen that bond and let your baby know that they are safe and loved.
Does It Matter What You Read to Your Baby?
When your baby is an infant, there is a selection of books that may be beneficial for your baby. These include high contrast books since baby’s eyesight is still developing at this point.
These high contrast books can help your little one with their focus and give them something a little more concrete to look at along with introducing some very basic concepts.
However, during the newborn and early infancy stages, you can read anything with your baby and they will still reap the benefits.
Can You Read to Your Baby in the Womb?
Totally! And you should!
You’ve heard how babies can hear your voice in the womb once they hit a certain stage of fetal development.
There is even research out there that states that babies can even recognize voices and music that they heard in the womb even after they are born.
Who’s to say that they might not recognize the way you read a favorite story?
It may feel silly reading a children’s book to your growing belly, but even just reading your book of choice out loud instead of in your head can help your baby recognize your voice and form an attachment with you…even in utero.
Top Tips for Reading to Your Baby
The following are my top tips for reading to your infant from day 1. Don’t get caught up in the mechanics of it. The important thing is to make it fun and habitual.
Keep it Short
Especially as your little one approaches their first birthday, you may notice their attention span or willingness to sit through a story is getting a little smaller.
Shorter books are great for this stage, but don’t worry if you want to read a longer book and don’t get to finish it.
I have found that before naps and bedtime, reading full stories tends to be easier. So we have some shorter favorites to read periodically throughout the day.
Make it loud. Make it silly.
The point here is to get your baby interested in what you are doing and make reading engaging.
The more you use silly voices for characters, vary the tone and pitch of your voice, and exaggerate what’s going on on the page, the longer your little one will want to attend to your reading time.
Get that bond going! Especially with an infant, you will want to snuggle close as much as you can during reading time. Remember, this is a great time for bonding!
Even if you aren’t holding your baby, you might snuggle next to them on the floor while you are reading. Tummy time can be an excellent time for reading.
Create Your Routine…And Stick to It!
To make sure reading takes a priority in your daily schedule, it is important to create your routine now and make it a habit.
Do you vow to incorporate reading as part of your baby’s bedtime routine?
Maybe you want to read and snuggle as soon as baby wakes up.
Whatever your choice is, find what feels right for you and stick with it.
Get Your Pointer Finger Moving
Your baby is constantly trying to make sense of the world around them. While you are reading, point to the book and point to the pictures that describe the words you are saying.
So if the book is talking about the Sun, point to the picture of the Sun at the same time.
This helps build a connection between words and concepts, which is the beginning of language development.
What Books Should You Read to Your Baby?
Below are a couple of lists of some great books to read to your baby. Each section contains my top 5 books for that category. Check out more books for baby’s library.
These books are best for newborns as they cater to an infant’s nearsightedness. The stark contrast in colors make them easier for infants to see and encourage them to focus and follow the pictures.
These are also all board books so they are highly durable for baby play.
These books are great for baby book play as little ones love to explore things with their mouths. From birth and on, these durable books will become quick favorites!
Touch-and-Feel books are perfect to add to your baby’s library around 5-6 months. When baby is reaching out to touch things and starts seeking sensory stimulation, touch-and-feel books provide plenty of textures for baby to explore.
Sound books are really engaging, especially starting at around 9 months. They allow your child to explore concepts through sight and hearing giving them a better understanding of the concept. Sound books also work on the “cause and effect” skill as when your child presses the button, it makes a sound!
Lift-the-Flap and Peekaboo Books
These books are particularly perfect as your baby becomes more interactive with the world around them (great for 6 months and up). They will love to look at what is hiding underneath flaps.
What’s Next for Your Baby’s Reading Skills?
As your baby turns one and grows into the next phase of their reading development, you will find that other developmental changes make it harder to stick to your reading habits.
Your soon-to-be toddler will be wiggly and on the move and will most likely not want to sit for storytime. You can still incorporate a lot of toddler literacy skills even with a toddler on the move though.
And don’t worry! Your efforts now will pay off in the long term. Don’t get discouraged. You might still be able to squeeze in a short bedtime story every night.
Keep at it and modeling how important reading is to you.
What are some baby reading tips that you’re going to try? I’d love to hear about them below!