Reading to Babies: It’s Never Too Early
Callister reading in bed at six months
One of my absolute favorite things in the world is when my three-year-old grandson climbs into my lap while he’s holding a book, snuggles in, and listens while I read to him. Some days it’s only one book before he jumps down and runs off to play with his trucks. On great days, he continues to bring me book after book. He knows there is no limit to how many books I’ll read to him.
Now Callister’s little sister, two-month-old Sylvia, joins in for some of our reading sessions. Some people may think young babies aren’t ready for books, but it’s never too early to begin the excellent habit of reading to children. Reading at least one book a day should start with newborns. Here are five reasons, and there are many more why reading to young children is beneficial.
1. Brain Development
Between birth and three years old, a child’s brain develops at an astounding rate! Although a child is born with all the brain cells they will have for the rest of their lives; the stimulation caregivers provide can enhance the synapse connections made within a child’s brain. Reading to a child is a great way to help make those synapse connections that help develop thinking, speech, and early literacy skills.
Babies learn language by mimicking. When you hold a child close and read to them, they see that the words come from your mouth and different mouth positions create different sounds. Reading is an effective way to expose a child to varying vocal patterns, such as a change in inflection when asking a question.
3. Visual Connection
As you read to a child and point out the pictures, they begin to learn the connection between words and images. As they get older, your reading can become more interactive as you ask them to point and identify things. Ask them questions as you go along, involve, and engage them.
4. Love of Books
If a child is read to, they will associate pleasant feelings with reading. A child that loves to read will have a better chance at academic success. My love of books has been a constant source of joy throughout my life – a companion when I’m lonely, an escape when the “real” world is depressing, and a gateway to learning and adventures. I hope I can pass that gift on to my grandchildren.
Reading together is such a bonding, positive experience. Reading a book to a child requires you to forget about the rest of the world for a few minutes and genuinely engage with the child. You’re creating precious memories with a child when you read to them.
You may feel a little silly reading to a newborn, but stick with it, and you’ll notice around six months, they begin showing more interest and responding. Children love repetition, so be willing to read the same books over and over. You may get tired of “Little Blue Truck,” but children find repetition comforting. Repetition is critical for learning.
What to read?
Some of my favorite books to read to infants include anything by Sandra Boynton, the Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney, and good old Dr. Seuss. My primary reason for picking those authors is the flow of the language. There’s a lot of rhyming and silliness going on in these books and also excellent illustrations. Another book that both of my grandkids love is Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. I’ve read it so many times I have it memorized! When I read it to my almost three-month-old granddaughter, her eyes lit up, and she paid attention during the entire book! She doesn’t know what the words mean yet, but she knows the sounds are pleasant, and she is being held and loved. Books are a good thing!
A few of my favorite books to read to babies
Where do you get books?
At this time, the libraries remain closed due to COVID, but the Tulsa City-County Library makes it possible for readers to still get books. The libraries have continued curbside delivery throughout the pandemic. If you desire specific books, you can request them online. You can also call your library and tell them your child’s interests, and they will put together a bag of books for curbside pickup. Books for all ages are available through curbside delivery. Even though I have been a frequent patron of the library since I was about six, the fact they trust me to check out books, and it’s free, still amazes me. The librarians deserve a big thanks for all they do!
Getting my first library card was on the excitement chart right up there with getting my first driver’s license!
Another service I’ve utilized is the Magic City Mailbox, a literary care package subscription service for children. You can choose either a three or six-month subscription for your child or grandchild to receive a new book each month. Sending a literary care package is a particularly great idea for grandparents during a time when many aren’t able to see their grandkids because of COVID-19. Magic City is a local, not-for-profit bookstore and can use our support during the pandemic.
Consider making reading a part of your daily routine with your kids or grandkids. Experts recommend that we should talk, read, write, sing and play with children every day. Do it for them and also for yourself. Who doesn’t need a good “happily ever after” story these days?
Three-year-old Callister likes to “read” to his two-month-old sister, Sylvia.