I am forever being asked, “When should I start reading with my child”, and I always say “ASAP.” Babies love the sound of our voices. Listening to adults speak and read is vital in developing a baby’s language skills, speech and cognitive function. In a study at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, 18- to 25-month-olds whose parents said they had been reading to them regularly for a year could say and understand more words than those whose parents hadn’t. There is a huge amount of research to suggest that reading in the early years is a great way to assist in your child’s learning.
This image below demonstrates just how important regular reading with your children is to their vocabulary development. Pretty amazing, hey?
But, how? Babies are so little, they just sit there and do nothing. Well, it turns out, that doesn’t matter. Babies are taking it all in. Their brains work harder and faster than we could ever imagine. So here, I’ll share with you some tips on how to read with your baby in their first years.
Birth to 6 months: Choose books with little or no text and big, high-contrast pictures. It’s much easier for a baby to see and engage with. Consider books with interactive additions, such as puppets, mirrors, or peepholes. You will see their little eyes light up every time. You could try Baby’s Very First Black and White Book set by Stella Baggot. There are a range of titles including Faces, Animals, Going Out and Babies. Roger Priddy also has a range of board books that are high contrast including Hello Baby: Faces. Also check out Bianca Ebeling’s Let’s Go Outside and Let’s Celebrate. Her high contrasting board books were short listed in the Book of the Year awards by Speech Pathology Australia in 2016. Just pop one of these books in front of your bubba during tummy time. Perfecto!
If you’d like, you can totally read adult books or newspapers to your bub. Comprehending what the text is saying is NOT the point at this stage. For infants, reading is about the tone of your voice and cuddling up to you.
You don’t have to finish a book. Your baby has a very little attention span. So reading for just a few pages will be enough to show your child what reading is all about without having to sit there for a long time. Remember, 30 seconds may be more effective than five minutes.
7 to 12 months: Halfway through their first year, babies may begin to grasp some of the words. Simple things like doggy, mummy, daddy. Books with just one object or person per age are best. Hearing you name something your baby recognizes reinforces his/her vocabulary and slowly helps him/her realize that illustrations stand for real things. Point to the pictures your baby shows interest in.
My fave part is to get interactive with your child. Act out what you read with your face, hands, and voice. Make it as animated as possible and give your little reader a chance to babble back to you. This encourages a “conversation” about the book and shows your child that you are both connecting over the same thing.
Point to things on the page. This is actually relevant for all kids. Drawing their attention to the pictures is a great way to keep your child engaged and get your baby tracking the important parts.
Let your baby explore the books. If he/she wants to put the board book in their mouth then let it go. If they want to turn the page before you have finished reading it, then let that go too. It’s all part of their learning and they won’t do it forever.
Reading in the bath using a bath book is also a great way to squeeze in some reading with your bubba. Louis absolutely loves his bath book and cries out every time we have to stop.
13 to 18 months: At this stage you can introduce more text on each page. Your child will be able to sit there and enjoy the books for that little bit longer than before. It’s especially important to act out the text at this stage of your child’s development. Making noises to match the text/pictures, singing songs and moving your body; its all really important in engaging your child. Invite participation by asking questions such as “What does the dog say?” or “Wheres the cat?” Ask your baby to point to real-life examples of what’s pictured, (“Where’s your nose?”).
19 to 24 months: Many toddlers find the familiar routine of reading reassuring and calming. They like repetition and will start asking for their favourites over and over again. They will insist on their regular bedtime book, and although it’s super boring for us, it actually has a learning benefit. Experts say it helps children learn and remember new words with the constant repetition. At school, we encourage reluctant readers to find their favourites. It helps them retain the words but also gives them a sense of confidence when they are learning to read as they know whats coming next.
Make sure you give your child a chance to read every day. Having a regular reading time is a great way to build a reading culture at home. Bedtime is a great time to share a book, or 3, but its totally up you and your family.
I hope these tips have been helpful for you and your baby. Please visit the contact page and get in touch if you would like any other advice on reading and early learning. I’d love to hear how your reading journey is going, so feel free to send me an email.
Happy reading Readers.