Every time I speak to a new parents’ group about nurturing their child’s language development, I always ask if everyone is reading to their baby. Recently, I spoke to new moms and dads and posed the question. One mom said she wasn’t reading to her baby but was singing instead and asked if that was okay.
Certainly singing to your baby is important for hearing rhythm, beat, and language. One mother of twins, made up and sang a song for each child using their name repeatedly. Children receive information from music in a similar place in the brain as language. Research is constantly being done to look at links between music and language.
That being said, let’s not substitute singing for reading to your baby. Do both! When you read with expression, emotion, variation in pitch and gestures, you are drawing your child in to the enriching experience of language. Babies are hearing the rhythm of language and already making the distinctions between their primary language and other languages. Reading exposes your baby to the flow of language and starts the process of their being little detectives, recognizing sounds, patterns and rhythms that precede their ability to talk. Your close, cuddle time while reading strengthens the social emotional bond with your child and starts a tradition of a mutually enjoyable time of reading together.