‘When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.’ Mem Fox, Reading Magic
On instinct, I sought out high-contrast books for my first born (now 12) – my husband thought I was crazy, yet fast-forward to the present and he devours books! The floor of his room is literally covered in books and goodness knows how he sleeps because there is barely room with all the books he takes to bed – you can see him in the picture below, reading to his baby brother. It was such a heart-warming moment.
If you’re reading this and have an older baby, please don’t stress or worry. It’s not too late so just get started and make reading part of your day. There’s plenty of ideas on how to read to your baby along with what to read to your baby at the bottom of this post.
5 Reasons to Read to your Baby from Day One
1. Reading helps you to bond with your baby
The fact is, it can sometimes feel super awkward talking to your baby, especially in the beginning when you don’t really get anything back! Baby will just love the sound of your voice so read anything you wish; I’ve read aloud everything from Harry Potter to the newspaper, as well as a choice selection of baby books.
‘The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud, it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.’ Mem Fox, Reading Magic
2. Reading in turn promotes a love for reading
If reading is a normal part of everyday life from the very beginning, then your baby is much more likely to grow up to be a fan of books – take the example of my 12 year old son from the introduction. Reading with expression and enthusiasm will show your baby that reading is a fun, joyous activity.
‘I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.’ Roald Dahl
3. Reading helps to develops language skills
Parents who read just one picture book with their children every day provide their children with exposure to an estimated 78,000 words each a year. If that is all added up, children from book loving homes will hear a cumulative 1.4 million more words during storybook reading than children who are never read to.
By reading aloud from the start, babies begin to understand the way communication works. They will be observing you speak and have learnt the sounds needed to begin talking themselves by the time they reach their first birthday.
‘The ideal three stories a day are one favorite, one familiar, and one new, but the same book three times is also fine.’ Mem Fox, Reading Magic:
If you need help with language development, check out the post speech therapist, Amanda Gerson wrote for the blog recently. You can read the post ‘5 tips to get your Talking’ here.
4. Reading books helps to develop the imagination
Some of the best creative writers that I have taught in schools have also been the most prolific readers too. Reading books to children helps to stimulate their curiosity and imagine possibilities beyond what they experience in their daily lives.
‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.’ George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
5. Reading teaches babies social and emotional skills
Reading aloud and with expression helps to foster social and emotional development. The interactive nature of reading allows baby to look, point, touch and eventually ask questions which in turn promotes social development and thinking skills.
‘We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.’ Eric Carle
Ways to read to your baby
Like any activity you do with your baby, reading is best done when baby is content. If they are hungry, exhausted or have a full nappy (diaper), then they are unlikely to be interested.
It helps to turn reading into part of the routine – perhaps read as a bedtime story or just before nap-time.
Try one of the activities below, or simply cuddle baby on your lap.
- Books with high-contrast images are great for babies aged 0-3 months. Here we are using the book as a tummy time activity.
- We often placed books propped open when the children were very tiny babies so we could talk about the pictures.
- A baby book circle is great either as a tummy time activity (from 3 months ) or as a seated activity for mobile babies.
- A discovery basket (as shown above, right) can be used to explore books and other objects, like this blue themed basket, for example.
What to read to your baby?
Here are some of our favourites to buy, borrow or add to gift lists:
- Baby Loves Art series (these are black and white books and are ideal for the early days!)
- The Usborne ‘That’s not my…’ series
- Nosy Crow, ‘Where’s Mr/Mrs…’ series
- ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see…’ by Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle
- ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell
- Circle, Triangle, Elephant! by Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
- Where’s Spot by Eric Hill
Be on the lookout for books to read to your baby that:
- Have interactive ‘lift the flap’ pages
- Have a sensory element
- Include a baby safe mirror
- Have a bright, bold colour scheme and simple illustrations
- Includes plenty of repetition
You might have also noticed a lot of Mem Fox quotes throughout this post. Please go and check out her book – Reading Magic. It’s a great book to download for all of those night feeds and her advice just makes so much sense!
If you’ve got older children, check out the blog post that Play Makes Sense recently wrote which will help turn your children into enthusiastic readers. You can find ’10 tips to get your Child Reading’ here.