Babies enter the world ready to learn. Before they can recognize words, grab an object or even focus their eyes, they can enjoy books.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy encouraging parents to read aloud daily beginning in infancy. After all, if we want our children to become lifelong readers, we need to start at the beginning of life. The very first step to becoming a reader is to develop a love of books, language and reading. When a child is introduced to books in the warm cozy comfort of a parent’s arms, they quickly learn to associate reading with love. Right from the start, reading becomes a normal part of their everyday life.
Babies come to recognize the special tone of voice we use when reading aloud. In fact, you may discover that you can comfort your child by “reading” their favorite book, even if the book is not present, simply by using your reading aloud voice. Reading aloud brings new and interesting words into your baby’s world and teaches them the rhythm and melody of language. Rhyming text, books with fun sound words and books based on songs are all excellent read aloud choices for your baby. Reading with feeling will keep your child engaged and also teach them to recognize different emotions and develop empathy.
When choosing books for your baby, it is important to consider durability. Babies explore the world with their mouths and books are no exception. They are sure to gnaw, chew and drool their way through their library.
Look for books with bright simple pictures and lots of contrast. Babies enjoy pictures of faces and other babies. Even young babies are able to focus on an interesting picture for 60 to 90 seconds.
The story line should be short and full of fun words to say aloud. In fact, words are not even necessary. Exploring the pictures and making up your own story is a fun way to “read.”
Fortunately, publishers are offering a great selection of board books written especially for babies. But beware; some publishers try to increase sales by offering titles intended for older children in board book editions. Watch for your baby’s cues to tell you if they are enjoying the book. When your child begins to fuss or squirm away, switch to a different book or end reading time for now.
If you always keep a book within reach, reading time can happen in short bursts anytime and anywhere. Reading with your baby builds emotional bonds, creates a spirit of curiosity and exploration, and gives your baby the very best start to becoming a successful learner.
You can also benefit from reading with your child. It is important to take a break and escape from the chore list for a moment. Not all of the books you choose need to be children’s books. Read aloud from your favorite magazine, author or even textbook. The purpose of reading to your child is to shower them with words and language even if they are too young to comprehend the meaning. Plus, reading gives you something to talk about with your child beyond what various animals say or identifying colors. It can almost feel like adult conversation.
Your local library is an excellent place to find books for your baby and for yourself. Check out the library’s calendar for scheduled baby and toddler story times. It’s a great way to get out of the house, meet other parents and get ideas you can use at home to help your child become a lifelong reader. Plus, it is all free.
LuCinda Gustavson is a youth services librarian at the Springfield Public Library.
The views expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.