Reading to Babies
If there is something you want to learn about you can find it in a book. Want to travel the world? Go there in a book! You can even travel through time or to magical worlds. Reading exercises your brain, increases your vocabulary, and is free (with a library’s card). I would guess kids who like to read do better in school too.
Kids who like to read become adults who like to read.
Kids who like to read start out as babies who like to be read to.
Babies who like to be read to do not just naturally exist.
Babies know what they need. Babies have way more important things to do than read like play, play, and play! They want to explore their world. They want to move and pick up objects, feel them, taste them, and take them apart. In fact if you give a baby a regular book they will most likely taste it and then take it apart (permanently)!
Babies can also be fiercely independent wanting to do things themselves. How do you read to a baby who insists on holding and ripping books?
Here’s what has worked for us
1. Don’t give up and assume your baby doesn’t like to be read to like I was about to do with my first until I found cloth books. Get cloth books and get a bunch of them! There’s a lot of great ones out there. I especially love these…
- Priddy Books (good quality short and simple story books with tactile elements)
- Lamaze (these books have lots of suspense building flaps!)
- Manhattan Toys (fun books with toy like elements)
- Taggie Books (you know how babies like to pick at the tags on blankets?)
- There are a couple cute ones from Skip Hop like this accordion book and this tree book.
- There are also a few classics available like Goodnight Moon and Are You My Mother?
Your baby can hold them and play with them and taste them and stomp on them and try her darnedest to deconstruct them until her heart’s content. They are indestructible. Everyone’s happy!
2. Have books accessible. Put cloth books and/or board books in a basket on the floor for baby to pick through. Babies like time to look at books on their own. They may try “reading” to themselves or flip through until they are curious enough to bring one to you or they may just want to look at the pictures. Sometimes that is all I want to do!
3. Also start with other lap time activities everyday like songs, finger plays, and nursery rhymes which will develop you child’s attention span, interest, and listening skills.
4. Next seize short reading opportunities throughout the day. If your babies bring you a book drop everything, praise her, and read the book together. Make it fun but allow it to be short. First books should have very few words. Babies can have flea-like attention spans.
5. Set an example. Let her see you enjoying books. Babies love to mimic.
6. Right from the start babies have their own personality. Am I right?! Pick books according to their interests. Does your baby love music? Pick sing along books. Does she love animals? Other babies? Funny sounds? Get books with playful elements like sounds, texture, pockets. Make some books of your own too with pictures of family members or whatever!
7. Babies love the same book over and over. Allow them that pleasure but also keep them interested with new choices all the time. We can all get in a reading rut.
AND don’t forget to read with enthusiasm! Here is a free printable poster with 50 ways to do just that.
Reading isn’t everything though, for example it is pretty hard to learn how to do something hands on from a book. If you want to learn to crochet, play an instrument, or fold a play tent you really need someone to show you how. I love YouTube for instructions too. And of course anything you want to learn to do you have to practice. Babies know this instinctively. Babies have a lot of skills to develop and they do it through mimicking, exploring, and play but they can spare a few minutes here and there to begin to cultivate an interest in books!
- Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
- A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature from editors Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano
What are some things that work for you and your baby? Please share!