When to start reading to babies
Are you wondering when the right time is to start reading to your baby? Right now is the best time to start reading to your baby. Babies can hear from inside the womb and recognise their parent’s voices when they are born. The more they hear language the more chances they have of picking up the sounds they need to know to speak and understand language. If your baby is not yet born you can begin to read to them as they begin to hear a noise at 18 weeks and will respond to noise and voices from around 26 weeks gestation. If you feel a bit funny about reading try reading things out loud to your spouse/partner or another person you are with. You can also read when you are alone if you are feeling weird!
Did you know that Babies can learn the sounds of any language before 6 months old? Their brains are designed to take in information and begin to start making connections to process that information. So more stimulation (ie hearing you read) builds brain connections. The good news is that helping your babies brain grow is not just up to you.
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Who should read to babies?
A baby can benefit from many people in their world reading to them. Reading is the perfect opportunity to bond with the baby. Parents should read to babies regularly and it is a good idea to make it part of your daily routine. I used to enjoy the relaxation of sitting and reading to my child just before it was time for them to take a nap or go to bed for the night. Just try not to fall asleep yourself!
Grandparents can read to babies
Grandparents love to read to their grandkids. If you get the chance sit back and watch a grandparent read. They like to use all the different voices and sound effects and will make any silly noise they can to engage the child in the story. Grandparents are often in a stage of life that they don’t really care anymore what anyone thinks of them so they are happy to go all in to make a story entertaining for their grandchild.
Storytime can also be a delightful time for siblings and cousins to enjoy stories with the baby. Depending on the age of the children, older children can read to the baby while parents are trying to get some chores done or join in with the bedtime reading rituals. Other children can help babies learn that reading is part of the culture in their home. Reading regularly will also help increase the babies potential for literacy and readiness to learn to read themselves once they are older. Do you remember anyone from your childhood who read to you and made the books come alive?
Other people in a babies world who may share books with them would be Librarians, baby sitters, Aunties, Uncles and friends. Libraries often have and early childhood group where they read a story and then do an activity that ties in with the story for that day. This is also a great time for parents to learn how to read books to a child as they observe how the librarian reads and engages the children with the story. Babies need other people in their world that they can trust and bond with so that their parents can have a break and go out together. This is where Aunties, Uncles and friends come in. It is important to find safe people for a baby to connect with and reading to the baby is a great way for your support people to build a relationship with your baby. Reading can be an excellent distraction if your little one has some separation anxiety when you need to leave them.
When should you read to babies?
Reading to newborns is not too challenging as they don’t usually go too far. Their vision is still developing at this stage so choose bright colourful books to grab their visual attention. You can sit them on your lap and then put the book in front of them. The other thing you can do if you are breastfeeding is to choose a book you would like to read (make sure it’s not too emotional or has graphic themes as baby will pick up on your responses) and read it aloud while your baby feeds. At this age, you are trying to expose them to the sound of language so the more complex sentences are not a problem because they are learning the sound and rhythm of the language.
Once they are a little older and don’t like to stay still for too long you can still sit them on your knee so they can feel and touch the book as you read. Other places you can read are in the kitchen while the baby is having a snack in the highchair. Or you may be in the lounge room or playroom. Let your child stand on the floor while you kneel behind them and hold the book in front of the child as you explore the book together. Then let the child go and play with some toys after this. This technique was very useful for my very active boy.
Bath time is another great time to explore books! You can buy vinyl (waterproof) books so they double as a bath toy and a book. Or if you don’t like plastic you could read your child a story as you sit near the bath. Another option is to make up your own stories and tell them while using the bath toys to act it out. I know that is not technically reading but it is still giving your child the structure of stories and most importantly they are hearing the language. Bath books are not just good for the bath. They are also good to leave in the toy box when baby wants to chew and slobber on books. Turning pages has kept many little ones interested, entertained and asking for more stories!
What kind of books should I read to babies?
One of our favourite books was Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. My kids loved this book so much and we read it so many times that I had to hide it because I was going to go insane if they asked me to read it one more time!! You can get hold of a wide range of board books from any good book retailer. Often you can get beautiful gift packs that come with a soft toy which is a character from the story. Touch and feel books are really popular with babies as they use all of their senses to explore a book. Yes, even their mouths as this a common way for babies to explore their world so that includes seeing if books are tasty!
It is ok to have special books that your child can only read when the sit with an adult to read so that the book stays intact. However, I would encourage you to give your child access to books that they can explore on their own so that they develop their own love for books. You could make them available next to the toys or give the child the bottom shelf in the bookcase for their books.
As you build the reading culture in your home I hope that you find many great stories that become family favourites. Click on the Booktopia link below to explore their recommended list of books for babies and toddlers.
Naomi (More about me)