It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. We want your baby to grow up thinking that books are fun, just like any of their toys. Enjoying books helps to build early literacy skills for life.
Reading is also a great chance to have a cuddle and some one on one time with your baby. It’s a special time together that promotes bonding and your relationship.
It is a great activity to include in a bedtime routine either day or night (or both) as it assists with winding down and decreases stimulation. Bedtime is not the time for exciting stories with loud noises.
WHAT IF I DON'T LIKE READING ALOUD
Even if you don’t really feel very confident reading aloud, your baby will love it. You don’t have to read the words on the page, storytelling is also good, just pointing to the pictures and telling your baby what they are, have fun with it. If you are pointing to an animal, making the animal noises and some actions can be fun.
READING PROMOTES DEVELOPMENT
Reading promotes speech as your baby wants to mimic what you say and the noises you make. Gradually as your baby grows, reading will teach them about communication and concepts such as colours, shapes, letters, words and numbers. And because you’re just reading, it doesn’t feel like teaching and learning, just shared fun. It also promotes brain development as well as imagination.
Books expose babies and children to words that aren’t used in day to day language and therefore increase their vocabulary. Books with repetition, rhyming or songs are lots of fun. Eventually with favourite books your baby will start to know what comes next. Your baby will start to understand how a book works, how to read from left to right, how to turn pages and progress through the book.
Take a book or two in the nappy bag or car to read when you’re waiting for an appointment or have some time together. Aim for one book a day, sometimes you won’t read any and other times they will want more. Turn off other distractions such as the TV and other electronic devices.
I used to read to my babies after they had a daytime nap, they enjoyed lying down with me and sharing that special time. It gave them a chance to gradually wake up in a quiet environment, we rarely stopped at one.
WHAT SORT OF BOOKS FOR BABIES?
Black and white, other high contrast colour
Pictures of faces, babies and children
Books with rhyme, repetition and song
Plastic bath books
Lift the flap
Babies love black and white books, other high contrast colours work well too as they are easier for them to focus on. They love books with faces, children and babies in them. Give your baby plenty of time on each page to let them focus well. They will let you know when they have had enough.
Books like lift the flap and touch and feel have different textures and colours and are made from fabric or board. Board books are harder for your baby to damage. There are even soft plastic books that you can put in the bath.
Having a low bookshelf with some board books so your baby can start to show you which books they want is a good idea. Once my babies were old enough to crawl and sit up they would pull a few books out and look at them on their own, them bring them to me to read them.
VISIT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
Visit your local library and you can become a member and borrow books for free. This means you have an unlimited supply of different books.
Libraries are no longer quiet places, baby’s and young children are encouraged and it’s ok if they are making some noise.
There are often Baby Rhyme Times, Baby Bounce and Story Time sessions at many libraries, again these are free and a great place to meet other families with young children. While you are there pick up a book for yourself.
Enjoying books and being read to often by parents will increase your baby and child’s literacy development and they are likely to pick up reading more quickly in future.
They will grow up valuing books and the information within them as well as the joy of reading, which will stay with them for life.
Belinda Joyce is a midwife, maternal & child health nurse and author of 'Survive and Enjoy Your Baby'. Throughout her 20 years of experience, her passion is in providing safe, non-judgemental, evidence-based advice & options to parents so they can find their own path to parenthood. She has a wealth of knowledge, not just professionally, but also personally, as she is mum to 4 kids of her own.