When should you start reading to your child? The answer is…right now! I mean really, you can start reading while your baby is still in the womb. Babies develop their sense of hearing at 18 weeks and can respond to noise at 25 weeks. The cadence (the flow of language) and prosody (tune and rhythm) of reading sounds are different than normal speech and children can become attuned to them in the womb. It’s easy for your baby to pick this up when you have other children that you’re reading to, but if you don’t, don’t be embarrassed to read to your belly! (This is the best book to read in utero.)
I like to start reading regularly with my babies when they are about 3-4 months old. At this point, they can hold their heads up, grab things, follow a moving object, and are more interested in shapes and patterns. The neural brain explosion occurs when babies are 6 months old, so you definitely want to make sure you’re reading by then.
What You’re Teaching
Here are some of the things babies are learning when you start reading with them.
- What books are
- How to hold a book
- How to turn pages
- Reading happens from left to right
- Books have words and pictures
- How to interact with books (get interactive books)
- What a reading voice sounds like (the cadence and prosody of reading)
- That reading is special and fun
How to Read with Your Baby
First of all, you need to make reading special. Get stacks of really good books that your baby will love, and put them near your rocking chair, the couch, and your arm chair. (I like keeping my books in baskets like this.) Make sure your baby is fed, rested, and happy, and then introduce a book. At first, babies will interact with a new book as they would any other toy, but after reading it over and over and over again, you will be completely blown away when your baby starts to recognize it. With some books, I also enjoy turning it into a song.
My Favorite Cloth Books
Board books are great, but for babies 3-6 months of age, I really love cloth books…especially when they start chewing on everything! There are so many different cloth books out there, but these are the ones that have stood the test of time for all five children.
- Discovery Farm – This cloth book has many moving parts and is very engaging. I bought this for Ruby and still have it for baby #5!
- Peek-a-Boo Forest – Lamaze always has great toys and books. This cute little cloth book about an owl is wonderful.
- Fuzzy Bee – This cloth book is another favorite that we have used with all five kids. I love the little animals and interactive parts and so do our babies!
- Sunny Day Come and Play – This is another family favorite cloth book with great interactive pages. It’s made by Manhattan Toy, and I love pretty much everything they make.
- Peekaboo, I Love You – This is another Lamaze cloth book that I LOVE. Peekaboo is such a fun baby game and incorporating it into reading is just a wonderful idea. My babies love this book!
I LOVE Usborne books! The pages are super durable, the stories are interesting, the vocabulary development is phenomenal, and the people and Usborne GET reading. They know that children should start young…I’m talking babies…and provide PLENTY of resources to get your little ones interested in reading.
- Home Library Starter – This is a great collection to start your library for a baby. It has a little bit of everything and will get your baby on the right track towards reading.
- Baby’s Very First Black and White Library – The contrast of this black and white set makes these books perfect for newborns. Get the boxed set here.
- Fold Out Books – These books are visually striking, and I like how they can create a scene that stands upright.
- Baby’s Very First Stroller Books – These sturdy brightly colored books include an elastic attachment to affix the book to a stroller or baby gym.
- Baby’s First Noisy Books – These engaging board books have a sound panel to the right that makes the book come to life.
- Baby’s First Slide and See – These interactive books have a simple slide mechanism that adds an interesting motion to each book. They are very sturdy and can withstand inquisitive little fingers.
- Baby’s First Playbook – These books have bright and interesting pictures with interactive elements like texture and lift the flap. They are very sturdy.
- Baby’s First Bus Book – I love the thick cardboard wheels on this bus that actually turn and help the book stand up plus the bright and colorful illustrations.
- Touchy Feely Board Books (That’s not my..) – These board books are very cute and simple with lots of interesting texture and repeated patterns. My older children even love them! This boxed set about zoo animals is a great collection.
Reading with your baby shouldn’t be something you have to schedule in or even feel guilty about if you haven’t done it in awhile. If you set up an environment that is full of language rich experiences and lots of books, it will be easy to find moments here and there that are just right to snuggle up with a good book. If your baby is sitting on your lap, fed and content, and you’re wondering what to do beside having those wonderful face to face baby conversations, pick up a book and read it together!
Check out all of the blogs in my reading series:
- How to Introduce Your Baby to Reading
- Learning the Alphabet Lays the Foundation for Reading
- Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do
- Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes
- Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success
- Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words
- Encouraging Children to Read Independently
- Reinforcing Reading with Writing