The Importance of Reading to Your Baby
December 02, 2016
In this information technology age, many parents are asking themselves - is reading to my baby important? Are we placing the same value on learning to read and write as we did in the old days, and does reading to my baby who doesn’t yet speak help enhance learning? The simple answer is - yes! Reading is still an incredibly vital and crucial part of our daily lives, and getting your child started early can be a great way to give them a head start to further enhance their learning capabilities. While you may think that your baby might not understand what you are reading or be able to respond, the truth is that babies take stock of everything around them. They are influenced by all of the senses they are experiencing for the first time - sound, touch, taste, etc. - and encouraging the use of these senses helps them form stronger, deeper learning and development skills.
How Is Reading To My Baby Beneficial?
Did you know that reading to your baby can help with speech development? As you read your favorite poem or chapter from a loved book, your baby is taking in the sounds of the words that come out of your mouth, and is watching you to learn how to mimic this behavior. Hearing words is one of the best ways to learn a language, and it is because we as humans conceptualize sounds and meanings best through listening. Reading to your baby encourages this conceptualize - it encourages the listening of words and sounds, and can further encourage your child to mimic your activities as they get older, meaning that they will be speaking and reading along with you. Along with speech development, reading to young children and babies has been shown to have positive effects for development in many different areas. The synapses in the neurons of your infant’s brains are active when you are reading aloud (much like our adult neurons fire off when we read, which is why it is such a healthy activity). The active engagement in this reading process encourages development in rhythm and cadence, which further their understanding of language and meaning. In essence, the more you read a certain passage or phrase to your baby, the deeper the connection between the sounds and the meanings of the words becomes. Changing the books and passages can also have profound impact on overall development. Reading a book heavy in numbers and letters, and then reading a visual book that features shapes and colors introduces baby to new concepts. Reading regularly also improves vocabulary skills, builds listening skills and improves memory - all important skills for baby to have!
While development is a strong argument in the case of reading to your baby, an even better one is: love. Having a dedicated time to sit down and read to your infant encourages a stronger bond between parents and child, and can help your baby feel and really understand love. There is something intimate and beautiful about sharing a book or a short story with a child, and having it be a moment for you and baby right from the start can give you a great foundation for building a long term, relationship-strengthening activity for you and your child. Other strong emotions like joy, closeness, and excitement can all be experienced by baby during the reading process. In fact, even emotions like sadness and grief can be felt through books as the meanings become clearer - but many parents view this positively, using books and reading time to help baby start to learn how to deal with first time events, like the death of a family pet or the loss of a family member.
What Should I Read To My Baby?
There is really no right or wrong way to start reading to your baby - the most important step is starting! Picking up one of your favorite books may make the process easier for you. As you continue reading to baby, try finding books created for your child’s age group. Babies younger than 6 months may benefit from books with shapes and colors more than words and numbers, while older infants will be able to start to conceptualize the meanings behind the words, and may do well with books that have more to the story than just pictures. A few examples of great books to start with are:
Everyone Eats by Julio Kuo
In The Garden by Elizabeth Spurr
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz
More More More, Said The Baby by Vera B. Williams
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Whose Toes Are Those? by Sally Symes
I Can Do It Myself by Stephen Krensky
How Should I Read To My Baby?
Reading aloud is key, and incredibly easy to do. Once you pick a book, start reading out loud and stop to encourage engagement with your child. If the book has shapes and colors, try pointing to the shapes and saying what they are, or point to the colors and say their names. Repeating words and phrases and using audio and visual cues during your reading time will help baby get the most out of this activity. Reading for a few minutes at a time will be enough, but doing so often will be the best way to keep baby constantly learning and growing. Finishing books or getting to the end of a page is not the most important part of the reading process at this stage - rather, the most important part of the activity is engaging with baby and encouraging the conceptualization of language. Reading before nap time is preferred by most parents, as it gives baby a chance to bond with you before heading off to bed, and may make it easier for them to get a restful night’s sleep. Establishing a night time reading routine can help the sleep process become much easier over time, and will be a routine that will be easy to carry into the toddler years. Though, while night time reading can be positive, reading to your baby at multiple points in the day is just as important. Finding a time when baby is alert and ready to listen will be key in making sure learning is an active part of the activity. As time goes on and your infant grows, try incorporating new and more difficult concepts to keep those synapses firing in baby’s brain! When your child (now toddler) begins repeating words and following along more intently with the story, try asking questions about the characters and the plot to strengthen comprehension and improve reading skills.
The First Step Is Getting Started!
The most important step to establishing a reading regimen for you and baby is just getting started! There are so many different books to read and picking one to start may seem a daunting task, but remember that while reading is a great development tool, it is also an ideal way for you to bond with your child. Whether you choose to start with one of your favorites or a new favorite just for baby, reading regularly will be an activity you and your child will both love.
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