Reading aloud helps your baby learn new words, understand the difference between spoken and written language, and explore the larger world. The more you read to your baby the better prepared she will be for kindergarten, so start early and read often. Here’s what to do:
- Create read-aloud times, even for infants. For now, your new arrival will not understand what each word means or that there’s a difference between words you say and words you read. But she will love hearing the sound of your voice and connect that to a positive experience. Read with expression!
- Prioritize book time. Build reading-aloud time into your daily schedule. It’s okay to be flexible, so read when it’s most convenient for you and when baby is most receptive. Indulge in a book while your little one sits on your lap, before he drifts off to sleep or whenever you have a quiet moment together. Reading’s a great way to calm a fussy baby or entertain a quiet or curious one.
- Continue a tradition. Reach for reliable old Mother Goose rhymes to introduce your baby to the basic rhythms of language. Recite or sing each of these time-tested poems and songs after a feeding, at bedtime or before a nap.
- Add variety. Look for engaging books with colorful pictures. Aim for works with one word and image per page. As you read, point to a picture of an adorable infant and say “Baby.” Then turn to your child and say, “You’re a baby, too!” Find a colorful ball in the book and say, “Ball.” Then tell your sweetie, “Our ball is red and blue.” Sturdy cardboard books are great for teething babies. Select waterproof books to amuse your little one at bath time or whenever he wants to squish and squeeze objects in his hands.
- Boost interest in reading by assembling your own creations. Cut out colorful pictures of toys and food from old magazines. Place pictures neatly in plastic sleeves, punch holes in sleeves, and use yarn to lace them together.
- Make baby feel important. Substitute your child’s name for the name of the main character in her favorite story. Cast your little one as the featured player in a story you make up yourself.
Make Reading Magical
- Choose a quiet place to read and snuggle.
- Stretch baby’s attention span by selecting shorter books first, and then more to longer ones. Use a positive tone and say, “Oh, look, we read a whole book!” when you come to the end of a story.
- Remind your reader-to-be that real life and books are closely related. Read a book about apples. Afterward, recount your family’s recent apple-picking trip.
- Take time to talk about stories and gently ask you toddler questions. This is called dialogic reading. It challenges children to retrieve experiences from memory, and it encourages interactive toddler talk.
- Shorten a tale if it’s too complex for your baby. Use simple words and short phrases to sum up the action, such as “birds fly” or “balls roll.”
- Sing the stories. Babies love “Five Little Monkeys” and “Wheels on the Bus.” Bust out a tune and include the motions. Encourage baby to hum along.