Recently the topic of reading to babies came up for discussion. I am a big supporter of reading to babies, having read to my own child from birth. I still remember when my daughter was around 12 years old and she told me that I didn’t need to read her a bedtime story anymore. We had progressed well beyond picture books, to teen chapter books by this point. Reading to her was less about teaching her to read and more about a bedtime bonding ritual that we enjoyed together. I was devastated. Besides, how was I going to enjoy all the cool books aimed at upper primary and teenage readers? There is another story there, about Why I Still Read Junior And Young Adult Fiction.
Reading to your baby should be an enjoyable experience for both parent and child. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just find a comfy place to sit, pick up a book, and read. If you don’t have many picture books to read, then the public library is a great place to visit to borrow books. Many public libraries also offer story times and other sessions for babies and preschoolers. Want to know more?
5 Reasons to start reading to your baby
- Reading to your baby helps you to develop a bond with your child. Just the act of sitting with your child and snuggling up with a book is a nurturing experience for your child.
- Reading to your baby helps your child to develop the pre-linguistic skills necessary for your child to learn to read later on in life. Whilst you won’t be teaching your baby to read, you will be modelling many pre-linguistic skills that will help them later on. These are things such as; knowing that the marks on a page correspond to a spoken word; how to hold a book; which direction to turn a page; even which direction to read in (in English this is left to right, but in other languages it is different.)
- In addition to pre-linguistic skills, reading to your baby can also teach pre-numeracy skills. A classic example of this is The Very Hungry Caterpillar who first eats through one apple, and then two pears, and so on.
- Experts say that children need to learn between 3000-5000 words before they reach school. Building a vocabulary of this size can be aided by reading to your baby, as by reading together, your child will experience a variety of different words. Words that they may not hear in everyday conversation.
- Reading to your baby can be a soothing bedtime routine. All children go through phases where they struggle to sleep. Reading a book (or five) at bedtime can be a way of relaxing your child in preparation for sleep.
Marilyn Jager Adams wrote that “Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.” However, more that this, reading to your baby can be a relationship building activity, something that you look forward to at the end of each day. I know I did. And when my daughter grew up, as all children do, I missed the time we spent reading together.
Editor’s note: point 4 was edited for clarity.