NEW BRAIN RESEARCH REVEALS THAT SYNAPSES, THE connections between neurons, are twice as plentiful at 24 months as in adulthood. Reading to babies helps "wire in" those synapses so that babies get an early intellectual boost. In other words, early reading promotes early literacy.

Getting Started

Even before infants are talking, you can help them begin a lifelong love of reading. Snuggle comfortably with the baby on your lap. Share books with bright, colorful pictures (preferably with one illustration to a page for very young babies). Choose those made from cloth, hard cardboard, or washable plastic that will survive sessions with teething babies. Be sure to avoid plastic spiral bindings, which teething babies could bite.

You'll find that babies a few months old stare hard at black-and-white circles or simple face illustrations on a plastic page. By 8 to 12 months, they listen attentively as you chant nursery rhymes, especially when the poem corresponds to the illustration. A homemade book filled with family photos can provide comfort to babies of all ages. Ask parents to provide one for their child, and explain that children feel so secure as you slowly go through their album and talk about each precious person.

Books as Skill Builders

As you share books with toddlers, they learn that pages are read from top to bottom and turned from right to left, and that pictures and printed words (squiggles to them!) are related to each other. Books are also great memory stretchers. As toddlers remember story-line sequences, they begin to choose what they want to hear over and over. Listening to preferred choices again and again increases a toddler's sense of self and security. He really knows that special story! Give toddlers several choices of books, and you'll learn just which ones they dote on.

Click here to view and download A Letter to Families (PDF)