Reading aloud to your child is a priceless family ritual that can offer solace, strength, and joy as well as bring balance to your family's hectic life. A child is never too young for a shared story. So don't make reading time a "have to." Make it a "want to."
It may sound strange to talk about reading to an infant who can't even sit up on her own yet or one who prefers gumming the pages of a book to turning them. However, experts say that reading to the very young is the best way to forge a lasting bond. During the first year, your baby may begin babbling her own streams of sounds that mimic what she hears. When you respond, she learns that language connects one person to another. So prop your baby on your lap and get going.
- Surround her with words. Read nursery and nonsense rhymes, play pat-a-cake and "this little piggy" — silly games with repetitive patterns that link words to gestures or objects. Flip through brightly colored picture books of familiar objects, and make up a story as you go along.
- Make reading a regular part of your baby's routine. In this way, it becomes a special moment that your child — and you — can look forward to. Babies absorb far more from story time than most parents imagine. They learn how to hold a book, that books are read from left to right, and eventually that those funny marks on the page actually mean something.
- Buy soft cloth or waterproof books with bright colors, simple shapes, and familiar objects. Highly detailed illustrations can be overwhelming to a baby, but you'll grab her attention with animals, vehicles, and people in real-life situations, such as a fireman, policeman, or Mommy and Daddy at the office. Books with textured pages stimulate a child's visual sense and lend a tactile dimension to story time.
- Reinforce what your child is learning as she gets older. Your toddler may pick up a book and pretend to read or may even begin to recognize letters and numerals. Have fun with words by making up silly rhymes, songs, or chains of words beginning with the same letter.
- Fill your home with books. Keep some in the car and some waterproof ones in the bathroom. Let your toddler see you reading, and talk about books you love so she learns how much you value them.
- Take advantage of local reading programs. Most libraries or community centers offer programs for young children that augment the experience of reading with puppet shows, films, or crafts. Spending time together engaged in reading-related activities gives you another way to stay close.
Children of readers are much more likely to read themselves. Those who have come to associate reading with the warmth and comfort of being curled up next to you will grow up cherishing books and their connection to you.