The #1 Thing You Need to Know About Reading to Your Baby + 7 Simple Tips

Perhaps you’ve heard that you should read to your child from the time they’re born. It’s a way to help them develop a love for books and receive the many benefits of reading as they get older. But perhaps you’ve wondered if this is really practical. How can a baby engage with a book or understand a story? How can a baby possibly have a sufficient attention span to get through a story?

When you read to your baby, you have one primary purpose: providing a positive experience with a book.

It’s not about the story. It’s not about learning letters or phonics or making sure they’re an early reader. It’s about the experience.

When you snuggle your baby up close and they listen to the sound of your voice as you read or describe pictures, you’re exposing them to language from the very beginning. You’re promoting brain development in one of the simplest, but most powerful ways, all within the context of a loving relationship.

Here are some simple tips for reading to a child 0-12 months:

1. Focus on creating “warm and fuzzy” feelings associated with books.

Snuggle up and hold your child close so they can see the pictures and hear the sound of your voice. The early days and months of your baby’s life are filled with transitions and challenges, but stopping to read and snuggle can provide a welcome break for you too! (This is also a way to do Basic #1: Maximize Love and Manage Stress.)

2. Keep it simple. 

Sturdy board books that are short, simple, and have colorful pictures, are perfect for babies. As they get older, they will want to reach for the book and turn the pages. Board books that they’ll want to look at over and over again are a great investment. Don’t forget that your local library has these too!  

3. Speak with expression.

Whether you’re reading the words or simply pointing to the pictures and describing what you see, use an expressive voice to engage your child and make the book interesting. Remember, the sound of your voice is your baby’s favorite sound, so have fun as you read!

4. Describe the pictures and point to what you see.

With infants, you don’t need to read the words. You can simply describe what’s happening in the pictures and let them see you turn the pages. Talk about and point to the colors, shapes, and characters.

5. Let them be involved.

As your baby gets older, ask them to point to what they see in the book and let them turn the pages. Before they are even a year old, you can ask questions like, “Do you see the doggie on the page? Can you point to the doggie?” Children love to point and show you what they're learning! (This is also a way to do Basic #2: Talk, Sing, and Point.)

6. Read the same books over and over.

Babies and young children love repetition. It makes them feel safe and secure. Repetition also reinforces everyday words and concepts that are an important part of their world. Worn out books are well-loved books!

7. Follow their lead.

Remember, the number one goal during this stage is simply to create positive experiences with books. If you've been reading for a few minutes and your baby begins to lose interest, move on to something else. Every child is different and their attention spans will vary, even as they get older, but making it enjoyable will keep them excited about reading.

What are some of your favorite tips on reading to babies?

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80% of a child’s brain development happens in the first 3 years of life. Let's seize the opportunity! The Basics are 5 fun, simple and powerful ways that every parent can give every child a great start in life! 

Best of all, you can make the Basics part of your everyday family routines.

Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:

  • Watch this short video for encouraging ways that real parents are making "Read and Discuss Stories" part of everyday life. Click on the tips at the bottom of the page for Infants 0-12 months and Toddlers 12-24 months.
  • You may also enjoy 8 Simple Tips for Building a Healthy Brain with Books!
  • Receive regular, FREE resources from The Palmetto Basics.
  • Follow The Palmetto Basics on Facebook and Twitter. We provide encouraging, real-life, shareable content to help parents and caregivers!
  • If you, your faith community, your organization, or your place of business would like to join us as a Champion for Children, contact us! palmettobasics@gmail.com. 

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