Books and Your Baby
It’s 20 minutes before bedtime, and you’ve decided to start a bedtime reading routine with your 6-month-old baby. As you turn the pages of a sturdy board book, your baby seems so interested! She is grunting and grabbing at the book. You let her hold the book herself, and she babbles excitedly.
“Wow,” you think. “My baby loves reading!”
Then, she brings the book up to her face... and sticks it in her mouth for an after-dinner snack. Babies do enjoy books for more than just a snack.
- Most Babies Will: Enjoy tactile books with flaps, mirrors, textures, and sounds.
- Some Babies Will: Enjoy simple board books with action language, and recall pictures, sounds, and phrases from their favorite books.
- Some Babies Might Even: Enjoy longer picture books with a simple plot — especially if the plot has a pattern of repetition.
Find out what kinds of books suit your baby based on her age.
Birth to 9 Months
Reading to a baby can be hilarious — and it’s also bound to be frustrating for any linear-thinking adult. Many parents don’t see the value in reading to children this young. In a 2008 survey commissioned by Scholastic*, only 48 percent of parents reported reading to their child when the child was less than 1 year old. An additional 17 percent read to their children before they turned 2, and another 15 percent began reading before their children turned three.
This is also the age to introduce books with fun textures and flaps — children love to explore with their fingers and mouths as well as their eyes.
When you read to a young baby, don’t worry about finishing the book or even turning pages in the right direction. Just enjoy playing with the book as if it’s a toy, and read as much as your baby will let you.
9 to 18 months
At this age, you are beginning to hear your child’s first words. He is probably also pointing at objects and saying “Dat?” His receptive vocabulary (the words he can understand) is much richer than his spoken language.
This is where early reading begins to pay off. According to a study published in PEDIATRICS, babies who were read to regularly starting at six months had a 40 percent increase in receptive vocabulary by the time they were 18 months old. Babies in the study who were not read to had only a 16 percent increase in receptive vocabulary.
As your child begins to speak these new words she knows, now is the time to check out the plentiful “see and say” books. You’ll enjoy pointing out pictures and describing them to your child, and your child will enjoy pointing to pictures and hearing you identify the images.
18 months to 2 years
At 18 months, your child will begin to have the patience for “real” story-time, cuddled up on your lap with a pile of books. Mother Goose and other rhyming books will delight her ears and train her to listen carefully to the sound of language.
At this age, your child may want to “read” the books with you. He may ask questions, turn the pages back and forth, and ask you to read specific parts that interest him. Encourage this! He will also begin to request his favorite books, which he will like you to read over… and over… and over again. This will become an enormously satisfying ritual for him — and it builds a strong foundation for future success with books and reading.
Reading Activities for Ages 0-2
Try these activities to get your baby started on a journey to literacy.
1. Use Your Voice
Animal noises. Tongue-clicking. Raspberries. Songs! No one loves funny sound effects more than your baby does. Don’t be afraid to go over the top with weird noises as you read. Your baby will start to imitate you, and your first “conversation” may ensue.
2. Visit the Library
Once your child can hold books on her own, bring her to your nearest library. Offer her a selection of books and see which ones she picks up, and which ones she pays attention to for the longest time. You can check out her favorites (at this age, stick with board books) and enjoy them together at home.
3. Be a Role Model
Your baby is playing on his own. You’re eyeing that magazine you had to put down when he got up from his nap. Your baby is happily amusing himself with a toy. Feeling too guilty to read while you’re baby is awake? Grab that magazine and relax! One of the top tips for building literacy in kids is to be a role model and show him how you love to read too. You may be surprised to find your baby leafing through a pile of books by himself as well.
4. Familiar Faces
Find a plastic-coated baby’s photo album that you can put pictures into. Your baby will love leafing through pictures of her loved ones. Be sure to include lots of pictures of your baby, too. As you “read” the photo album, tell her stories of the fun things she has done with the person she’s looking at. Pretty soon, she will be able to leaf through the book and identify every picture.
5. Look it Up
You are driving in the car and pass a construction site. As a jackhammer rips through the pavement, a backhoe lifts dirt from a pit. From the car seat in the back, you can hear you son go wild. This is a kid who needs a book about construction vehicles! Whether your little one demonstrates an interest in dogs, flowers, or balls, there will be a book with pictures that will fascinate him.
Online Literacy for Ages 0-2
Between smartphones, tablets, ebook readers, and, of course, desktop and laptop computers, you may read online more often than off. Either way, your baby will grow up in a world where online reading is an everyday part of literacy.
Babies watch our use of technology. As we check the news on our smartphones or type in a quick Twitter update, our babies are aware that we’re clicking and staring at a little screen. If your child appears to be curious, explain what you are doing.
Features of Digital Reading
Years before you could read, you probably learned how a book works — what the cover signifies, how to hold the book, how to turn pages – and that those little black squiggles on the page are words (even if reading them was years away). Today’s babies are learning about books, too — plus a range of other text-delivery devices. By familiarizing your child with how technology works, you are putting her on the path to her own eventual competence with technology.
As she sits on your lap in front of the computer, allow your child to move and click the mouse. Help her type her own name, and let her practice typing her first initial and seeing it fill up a page. If you Skype with grandparents, point to their username on Skype’s directory. Your child will become as attuned to the words that signify important terms or messages in the digital world as they are to stop signs and food labels.
Encourage your baby to see how “eReading” technology is part of everyday life. Tell her, “I’m checking our calendar to see which day Grandma is coming to visit. Oh, great! It’s Saturday!” or “Let’s look at pictures that Alice’s mom posted from her birthday party.” Or, “Let’s text Graham’s mom and see if he’s free for a play date.” As your child sees the uses of online text, she will become interested in participating herself.
Best Books to Share With Your Baby
Looking for specific book recommendations? Try this list of books that are all perfect for squishing, lifting, and playing — just what baby wants to do with a book! Or enjoy titles featuring sounds and wordplay.
*Pamela C. High, MD and her associates at the Child Development Center at Rhode Island Hospital conducted this study. (See PEDIATRICS, Vol.105 No.4, April 2000.)