Lines Across: Reading to your Baby

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reading to your Baby

When I was a new mother, it seemed a little silly to spend a lot of time reading to your newborn baby. Don't get me wrong, I love books. It just seemed weird to read to a baby who wouldn't understand what you were saying.  However when my son was just a few weeks old I read a couple books to him and I was shocked at how interested and aware he was. Since then I have read quite a few articles and books that really talk about the importance of reading to your baby and toddler and I have seen first hand how wonderful reading has been for my 2 little ones.

Here is one of my favorite videos of me reading to Benjamin when he was only 3 months old. We are reading one of the Bright Baby Touch and Feel Books, Baby Animals.

These are some of the questions I had when Benjamin was first born. I am definitely not an expert, but I have a lot of experience. Also remember that every baby is different and don't be too discouraged if your baby isn't interested in books right now.

Reading Colors ABC Numbers, his toddler favorite
What are some of the benefits of reading at least a little bit every day to my baby (and toddler)? 

1. It helps build their vocabulary. The more words babies hear in the first year, the better. Their baby brains are like little sponges soaking up absolutely everything.

2. Your voice is soothing to them, and honestly you run out of things to say.

3. It is great to read and reread the same book over and over. Babies will learn to recognize the book and know what to expect next.

4. Reading is a great way to teach babies to focus their attention.

5. Book time becomes a special bonding time that you both look forward to every day.

What kinds of books are best to read to my baby?

0-3 months - Babies can't really see colors when they are first born so high contrast books are great. Benjamin and Lyla both LOVED the book What Does Baby See, and would just stare and stare at the pages. This is also a great time to read books with lots of words or songs. Really, your baby just wants to hear your voice.

3 - 12 months - At this age I would recommend board books that are touch and feel. I would also recommend books that are bright and colorful with exciting pictures that will excite babies as their vision gets better and better. Animals and household objects are also a lot of fun to look at. Some of our favorites are Chicka Chicka ABC, Bear Snores On, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, 5 Little Ladybugs, Tumble Bumble, Are You My Mother, The Cat in the Hat, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Lyla about a week old looking at What Does Baby See

What if my baby isn't interested in reading?

Even Benjamin who loves books has gone through fazes where he has almost no interest in sitting down to read a book. However I kept on at least trying to read a little bit every day. I don't think, however, that it is a good idea to push books onto your kids or turn it into a chore, especially at this age. If they aren't having fun and enjoying reading, then they probably aren't getting any of the benefits of reading either. Here are some tips that have worked well for us over the past two years.

1. Get board books and let your baby play with, chew on, stack, throw, etc... them. When I really wanted my son to keep the books out of his mouth, I would give him his pacifier and that seemed to work very well. This little trick did not work at all for my daughter.

2. Don't feel like you have to read every word on every page, go in order, or even finish a book.

3. Make reading a predictable part of your daily routine. We love reading books right before bed. I think that since Benjamin knows that when book time is over it's time for bed, he wants to stay and read a little longer.

4. Have fun with the books and don't be afraid to sound silly. One of Benjamin's favorite books is Tumble Bumble, especially because there is a fun thing we do with each page. I was surprised at how quickly he caught on and would even participate (like pretend to ring the doorbell).

5. Sometimes babies don't want to sit still in your lap for a long time reading a book. Lyla likes to lay or sit in her crib and watch my face as I read the book to her. You can even read to your kids as they are playing with their toys.

6. It's fun to have old favorites, but new books are a great way to get your baby's attention. I have gotten a lot of great board books at Goodwill for 30 cents each.

7. Very big books and very small books are also a great way to get your baby's attention. Benjamin especially loves our giant copy of Freight Trains.

8. Cloth books are also a lot of fun. Lyla and Benjamin both love our cloth book about bugs called Fuzzy Bee and Friends.

9. Make your own books with family pictures. Lyla and Benjamin fight over the book I made with pictures of the two of them in different colored shirts. This baby plastic photo album is amazing.

Benjamin just turned 2 a couple weeks ago. I realized that he knew a lot of his favorite book, Tumble Bumble, by heart. (An itty-bitty bug went for a WALK. He met a CAT and stopped to TALK. They fell in step and strolled a while and bumped into a crocodile. The crocodile grinned wide with glee and introduced her friend the BEE. They all began to dance a jig and bumped into a BABY PIG. OINK he squealed! That was my TAIL. The crocodile sang a SONG and as she sang they bounced along. Zigging and zagging down the ROAD, they bumped into a big green TOAD...)

(We were having book time on our bed right before Benjamin went to bed. That is why he isn't wearing pants and is holding his toothpaste, haha).


  1. Great post. Do you have the book Baby Read Aloud Basics? It has great suggestions for birth- 18 months. Even my husband read (parts of) it. He was super impressed that the baby's brain can still process the language they are hearing while they are sleeping... so if they fall asleep, just keep on reading :)

  2. Thanks for this awesome post and all the info! It was perfect for our link up party this week! We are going to feature it tomorrow just in case anybody missed it. Stop by to grab featured button ;)

  3. What a wonderful post. Thanks! My oldest son is three and he still loves books! When our family hears him say words like "situation, electricity, decision, abandoned" they look at him like he is crazy. He would not even know these words if it were not for the amazing world of books! I never knew books were quite that powerful.


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