How to Read to Your Baby

Countless studies show that children whose parents read to them from an early age tend to talk earlier, read better, and think in more complex ways than those whose parents don’t. Reading to your infant is simply bathing him with language, much like when you talk to him. He benefits from hearing the rhythm of language and the many new vocabulary words that he might not hear in everyday conversation. Strong language skills during the first years of life are a major predictor of a good reader. In addition, the cuddle connection is invaluable for parent and child.

By three months your baby is likely to raise his head for longer periods of time, and look around at interesting things during time on her tummy, in your lap or a baby seat. His eyesight has gone from fuzzy at birth to making nearly all the color distinctions and by four months, he can see, categorize and even briefly remember colors.5

You can hold your baby and read a book or place her in one of the many reclining seats and position yourself face to face as you hold the book next to you. Since babies become interested in toys at about three months, a book with bright colors and contrasts attracts your baby’s attention in the same way as a stuffed toy. As you read, your baby might attend to the book, examining it like a toy, or he might look at you, fascinated by the movements of your mouth, tongue and lips. With his innate preference for faces, he may listen to the whole book while looking at you. That is fine if he looks at you or the book. Both are interesting to him as he is taking in the language.

1. Anything Goes: Your newborn in a captive audience and I have heard from parents that they have read Golf Digest, The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, and older children’s books like Madeline to their baby. I am often asked if that is alright. Yes, you can read just about anything to your newborn because they are cuing in to the rhythm of language. One mom shared that when she came home from the hospital with her first born, she collapsed on the bed, propped him on her tummy and read the “how to come home from the hospital” page to him out loud because she figured they could both benefit. She undoubtedly got some reassuring information and he was stimulated through hearing the shape and rhythm of language. Your baby will get more aware and picky as they approach three months. Also, when you read adult material to a newborn you are less likely to deliver the bounce, expression and fun of a child’s book.

2. Get the Beat: As your baby approaches three months it is beneficial to read simpler children’s books with clear colorful illustrations and emphasize rhythm and rhyme through shorter expressive sentences. Be animated with your voice and facial expressions, knowing that children vocalize more to a familiar face and the most to a familiar face that is expressive.

3. Slow Down: Read in a slower expressive, up and down pitch much like the child directed speech, where words are emphasized through a sing song type of talking. Babies take in more language when spoken to this way. One mom was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar with lots of emotion in her voice and little Noah, three months, started reacting to the emotion in her voice. She also brought in a stuffed caterpillar to relate to the story. Noah was too young to understand the connection at his age but it is another toy to talk about and describe.

Play on Words Picks:

Sturdy board books, soft books that crinkle and encourage interaction and accordion books (like The World Around Me Ocean by Baby Einstein) to pull out and stand up for “tummy time” chats are all great choices for this age.

  • Read to Your Bunny by Rosemary Wells: This book not only introduces the new parent to one of my favorite children’s authors and illustrators, but also celebrates the message that reading to your child is important. In our busy world we need that reminder to slow down and spend 20 minutes reading to our baby.
  • Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Martin and illustrated by Eric Carle: I have never met a three month old baby who wasn’t fascinated with this bright, simple repetitive story. Through repetition and patterns this board book asks questions, gives the answers and culminates in a summary of all the animals. Preschoolers enjoy this book for many years.
  • Fuzzy Bee and Friends by Priddy Books: Babies love this soft, cloth book and it is a favorite choice because of the bounce, beat and rhyme. Fun textures from shiny snails and wispy dragonfly wings to stringy spider legs, give parents lots to describe to enrich language.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: The popular classic has bright colors and lovely rhythms. It’s unique in that it contains all forty-four sounds in the English language—every ending, blending and dipthong.
  • Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton: A parent’s enthusiasm for a book transfers to his or her child. Humor, beat, rhyme and cute story line delights babies and parents for many months, teaching them that listening is fun as they learn animal noises and enjoy the “oinks,” “sniffs” and “snorts!” Emphasize the fun words in the sentences and show your enjoyment in saying them.
  • Peek a Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti: Who doesn’t like a game of peek-a-boo? Babies enjoy the big bold pictures of animals hiding behind their hoofs, wings and feathers declaring “Peek-a-moo” and “Peek-a-cock-a-doodle-doo.”Read the book and describe the action for your baby. She will enjoy this book for several months, particularly when she approaches nine months and enjoys the element of surprise.
This entry was posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development. Bookmark the permalink.

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