“They don’t know what I’m saying,” “babies have short attention spans,” “he/she just wants to eat the book,” and “I feel silly reading to a baby,” are all arguments I have heard against reading books to babies. Well, here are some arguments from the other side . . .
Babies do not need to understand what you are saying at first, but they will greatly benefit from hearing your voice and intonation. Also, reading requires you to be close, relaxed and speaking directly to the little one and this can be a good and restful time for both parent and child. If babies never hear the words spoken aloud, how will they ever recognize them and eventually say them and read them? Babies who have been read to have huge advantages in developing skills to understand their world, build the necessary skills for learning words eventually, for learning how to read .They are in a far better position to be able to learn everything else as well.
So work with the babies’ short attention span. You do not have to read a big book to them. Choose something short and start out reading for just 10 to 15 minutes a day. As the child gets older, introduce stories of longer length and complexity.
Choose board books so that you won’t have anxiety about the baby ripping the pages or gumming the book. Board books are designed to be sturdy and enduring.
Don’t worry about feeling silly reading aloud to your baby – your baby already loves you and will love the attention you are giving them as you speak melodically to them. And once they do start to understand you, they will relish the chance to have your attention as you take a “book break” together. Bring them to the Library where we have storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Meet other babies and enjoy songs, rhymes and stories as you discover what your baby likes best.
Begin reading books that you like. By age four or five months babies are usually getting interested in objects that they can recognize and will like books with pictures of pets, babies, balls, cars, bottles, and the other things in their life.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Babies will start to learn the names of things and to understand the cues for what is going to happen next based on the tone of your voice and how you tell the story. Repetition is the way that babies and children learn best and you’ll soon discover that they have an endless appetite for their favourite images, stories, colours and books.
By about age one, children will start to imitate the storyteller and want to turn pages, hold the book or point to the pictures they like. Why not borrow books from the Library to “test out” with them. The Library offers such a wide variety that you should have no trouble finding something which interests you both.
Do this and you will be rewarded with a child whose vocabulary is rich; a toddler who can express him/herself and who is better equipped to understand this world and to interact with it and learn. By the time they start school, children who have been read to since they were babies have recognizable advantages over children who have not.
So read, read, read. Let them explore books with all of their senses. I promise you that reading to them is one of the best things you can for your child’s overall health, happiness and development.
The Children’s & Youth Services department at your Public Library wants to be your support as you introduce books into your baby’s life. We welcome parents and grandparents and offer books and programs to assist your child take those first steps into literacy.
Some Good Books for Baby Are:
Kisses Kisses Baby-O
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?