It’s never too early to read to a newborn. Many experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), cannot emphasize enough on the importance of reading “beginning in infancy.” AAP adds reading aloud to newborns encourages word learning, literacy and positive family relationships.
Even though what you’re saying isn't making sense to your little one, hearing your voice and talking to your baby helps him develop listening skills and familiarizes him with words. “Kids whose parents frequently talk/read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to. And kids who are read to during their early years are more likely to learn to read at the right time,” says KidsHealth.
It’s not just the words that help either. The vact of reading aloud--using different emotions and expressive sounds--fosters social and emotional development. All of his senses are at play as well as he sees, touches and even bites the book, which is absolutely normal and developmentally appropriate, says Dr. Pamela High, lead author of the policy statement on reading recommendations for children from the AAP.
And, no matter what age, reading together will always be a great opportunity to bond with your baby. By reading often, he will grow up associating books with happiness. Plus, you’re also showing that you value books and learning. It’s a great start if you want to raise a reader.
Reading books to infants is not the same as storytime with a toddler or preschooler, however. Here are some tips to remember when reading aloud to your baby:
1. Infants aren’t picky. What matters during the first few months is your voice. Your baby just likes to hear you talking to him. Read to him anything from rhyming children’s books, the latest issue of your favorite magazine or the current book you’re reading.
For infants a little older, take emotion into consideration. Make it interesting by varying the pitch or putting on different voices if you’re aiming to stimulate your baby. Put on a calm and quiet reading voice if you’re reading before bed. 2. Cuddle while you read. Hold your baby close while you read to her. It makes her feel safe and connected to you. It may even be part of the reason why your child will love and look forward to storytime as she grows older.
3. It’s okay to keep things short. There’s no need to read the whole book to your infant, even if you’re only reading a short children’s book. Bright colors and rhyming words can grab her attention for a bit, but it won’t sustain it for long. Concentrate on the pages you and your child enjoy the most. You don’t have to read from cover to cover.
4. Make sure you’re enjoying the book as well. One of the most important aspects of reading to a child is making sure the parent is enjoying the book as well. It will be hard for a child to find fun in a book you think is annoying. “It starts with the parent’s enjoyment and then becomes a shared enjoyment,” Dr. High told Time.
5. Add a lot of fun. When your baby is old enough to touch the book, feel free to inject a lot of fun to your storytime. Pick a children’s story that allows for it like those with rhyming words, animal characters, and things to touch and interact with.
You don’t have to follow the text word for word--improvise if you want. Pause every now and then to ask your child questions even if he can’t answer, then answer the question yourself (“Where’s the cat? There he is!”). Point to objects and illustrations in the book, make funny noises and animal sounds, and let your child touch and hold the book. Choose sturdy reading material like board books that can keep up with your child’s enthusiastic grabbing (and perhaps chewing).
At this age, making reading enjoyable is what you’re after and not so much learning about shapes or numbers.
6. Repeat books. Have a lot of different types of books at home: rhyming books, picture books, pop-up books, cloth books, etc. Soon you’ll find your child picking out her favorites among the rest. You’ll see her lighting up or being more engaging when you read her her favorites. And don’t worry about repeating these books night after night. Children love and learn from repetition. That’s why most children’s books contain a lot of repeating phrases or sentences. One day, your little one might just surprise you by repeating the words along with you!