Many parents wonder how reading to a baby as young as a newborn can really be beneficial, after all, the baby can’t really comprehend what is being read, nor can he or she talk yet. But, there are many benefits to beginning to read aloud to your baby well before he or she can talk.
Reading to babies and toddlers definitely promotes later communication skills, builds vocabulary and enhances memory, listening and attention skills. As you read to your baby he develops other important skills by looking at, pointing to and touching pictures. Babies hear different inflections and emotions in your voice as you read. Babies enhance fine motor skills as they learn to turn pages in cardboard “chubby” books. Toddlers soon learn to “right” a picture if the book is turned upside down, an important cognitive/perceptual skill.
Reading to young children also promotes the closeness between parent and child and can be a special time to soothe a child into sleep. Try to pick a certain time each day to read to your child and make it a routine. Don’t worry about finishing an entire book or even reading word for word. Sometimes just making animal sounds or talking about the pictures on each page is enough.
For young babies pick vinyl or cardboard page books with high contrast images and one large simple picture per page. For toddlers you can add texture books with crinkly & shiny pages to touch and explore. For older toddlers pop-up books become fun. Babies and toddlers enjoy books with real life pictures, as well as rhyming books and books with repetitive text.
Books by Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Busy Spider) and Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon, The Big Red Barn) are some favorites of young children. Check with your local library since many offer story times just for babies and toddlers, geared to their attention span and developmental level.
See list of best books to read to babies and toddlers.
By Tamara Guo, M. Ed.