Have you ever looked at a mom reading a book to her baby and thought, ‘what’s the point?’
Well, you’re not the only one. You see, lots of parents don’t even bother reading to their baby, as they think she is too young to understand books.
But here’s the thing. Even very young babies are susceptible to their environments. In other words, if you surround your baby with books in your house, read to her every day and read books around her -instead of scrolling through your instafeed, then your baby will pick up great reading habits growing up.
Monkey see…monkey do
I grew up in a household where both my parents were (and still are) voracious readers. Our house was full of books, newspapers, and magazines lying around, so much so that my friends used to joke I lived in a library.
Reading was very much encouraged and our weekly trips to the library were a highlight of my week (probably helped by a visit to the bakery afterward).
I’m convinced that my parents’ positive attitude towards reading has shaped my own reading habits.
My children still love to read
Now I have my own three children, I have really noticed that they sit down and enjoy a book much more than their peers, who can usually be found with a screen in their hands.
I would even go as far as to say that learning to read came quite naturally to them, as they were always surrounded by books.
But don’t just take my word on this, this thinking is backed up by experts.
What do the experts say?
“In children with stronger reading abilities, you will learn that their parents started reading to them at a younger age.
This is a direct quote from Dr. Pamela High, (director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., and a professor at Brown University) of The American Academy of Pediatrics.
In 2014 they issued a policy statement in which they urged all pediatricians to encourage parents ‘to read out loud to their children every day, beginning in infancy, to promote literacy and strengthen family ties.’
The aim of the recommendation is to help parents “immunize their children against illiteracy,” said statement author Dr. Pamela High.
High’s research has found that children who are read to by their parents have a great advantage when it comes to literacy. According to her if you read to your baby consistently and keep up this habit you will provide her with spoken words and sounds that will form the basis of her language and literacy development. In other words, you will foster great reading habits in your baby.
What’s more, if you read to your baby you create a wonderful nurturing experience which in turn helps her to develop socially and emotionally.
What’s in it for baby: more advantages
Besides the advantages already mentioned, there are more benefits for him in store:
- It allows him to get a feel for reading by pointing, touching and looking. This will help him develop his social development and thinking skills.
- By creating a cozy ritual where you cuddle up with baby, you foster closeness with your baby where you are totally focused on him and not just on feeding/changing him.
When should you start?
The great thing about reading to your baby is that it’s never too soon or too late to start. The optimum age for babies when they start taking notice of books is between 4-6 months. If you start at that age, or younger- you’ll find that reading is also a great way of soothing and entertaining them.
Although it may just seem that your baby is more keen to chew the pages than actually looking at them, keep persevering. He will grow out of that phase!
As your baby gets a bit older, she can show you what pictures she likes and once she hits around the 12-month mark, she will be able to turn the pages herself, which is a great milestone for her.
How do you foster reading habits in your baby?
So how can you make sure that your baby has the best start in life when it comes to reading?
1. Make reading to your baby part of your daily routine
This is the best way to ensure you read to your baby consistently. Before bedtime is always a good time to read to your baby, in his bedroom with low light. Make sure the room is cozy, and he will always associate a cozy environment with reading.
Another option is to create a reading moment when he has woken up from his nap, after changing him. He will still be a bit sleepy and relish cuddling up to you on the sofa when being read to.
Whenever you do it, just make sure your baby is fed, changed, alert and content.
2. Pick the right books for your baby
How do you know which books to pick? Well, babies love feeling textures. So start off with books made from different materials, to give your baby a full range of textures.
Your baby will love feeling cardboard books, cloth books, plastic books coated for the bath, and books with mirrors or that crinkly texture.
The great thing is that with reading comes an opportunity to teach your child. So as your baby gets older, try picking books that will talk about animals, nature, or colors.
I have picked out my all-time favorite books for babies. Most of them are classics you might recognize, but I also included more modern ones.
3. Create cozy spaces for reading
Just type in reading nooks on Pinterest and you’re treated to a wall of images featuring lovingly created reading areas. Some of them are so inviting, that all you want to do is sit there and read your book…all day.
I’m not saying you need to spend a lot of your precious time and money recreating these nooks, but creating a snug spot on your sofa by scattering a few big cushions goes a long way towards making your reading experience with your baby an intimate one.
4. Your voice is an instrument
Make your baby’s reading experience an interesting one. Read with expression; change your tone often and put on funny voices. Your baby will love you for this.
Also, don’t feel like you have to follow the story, make it up as you go along. As your baby gets older, he will love your creativity and will want to join in the fun. If you enjoy reading to your baby, your baby can’t fail to be entertained.
5. Surround your baby with books
All you need to do here is to put your and baby’s books on display, preferably in the living room. By displaying her books prominently you’re sending out a signal that her books are as valid as all your books and other stuff.
In our children’s lives, I have really noticed a difference between having their books stowed away and out on shelves.
When our babies were born, we had most of their books in our bookcase downstairs and some of their favorites on their bookshelves in their own room. Then we moved house, we had all of their books in boxes for around 6 weeks until our bookshelves were ready for them.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we moved in the summer and they were very taken with our much bigger garden and the estate’s playground, so they kept themselves very busy.
But then our bookshelves were put and painted and we spent a night emptying all the boxes and surprised them the next morning. They loved it, and many afternoons after they’re back from preschool I see them reaching for a book to relax with.
From shelf to sofa—our children’s happy place
6. Read books in front of your baby
Though placed at the near end, this is really important. Please read books in front of your baby. I know it’s hard to make time when you’re running after a little baby and trying to catch up with housework, which is a full-time job. But, when you have some time to sit down, try to ignore that big shiny thing always close to hand in favor of a good book. (try to forego your kindle here, that just looks like your phone to your child)
Trust me, even when small, children will notice and tend to copy your behavior.
7. Keep baby books in your diaper bag, not screens
As you know there are many times when you’re out and about with baby when you need your baby to entertain herself just for one minute. While it might be tempting to give her your phone or a tablet, please try to refrain from this.
A small baby book does the same thing for her and this will instill a much healthier habit in her than watching cartoons every time there is a gap in attention.
Just don’t forget to change up her favorite books, I know babies love repetition, but changing it up works wonders too.
8. Don’t be a stranger to your local library
Many local libraries have reading groups for babies and toddlers. Apart from getting that all-important reading activity in, this is also a great way to meet other local parents.
Also, you will find a great selection of free books to read and audiobooks, which you can put on in the car.
I hope you find that after reading this you’re excited to foster reading habits in your baby, and as you can see, it doesn’t take much.
Also, by following up all the points you might get to slow down more, forget about the housework (because as you may have learned by now, your housework will wait for you) and enjoy some great one on one time with your baby. And bonus, you get to read more yourself.
If you’re wondering where to start, have a look at my list of best books for babies.