Reading to your baby is a time for bonding and fun when your child creates a positive association with books. Research shows that reading boosts language skills and its benefits extend through the school years. And the earlier reading starts at home, the greater the benefits.
Here are some tips on getting the most out of storytime and fostering a love of reading in your baby:
1.Choose books with real imagery
Babies, eager to learn about the real world around them, benefit most from books that feature things they see in everyday life. Before the age of three, children are concrete learners, meaning they absorb everything in their environment as reality. So we recommend saving the unicorns for later years when they can distinguish between real and make believe. Infants learn best when their books feature one realistic image per page. Books with no written words are a powerful language tool and help you to model active engagement with a book.
Tip: Make a book with pictures of family members and just a few words of text. Your baby will enjoy seeing familiar faces while learning new words and names.
2. Engage in rhythmic conversation
The ideal way to read with a child is to actively engage her. This means asking questions about the book and then guiding her to elaborate, expand, and discuss. Setting up these habits is important from even the earliest months, as your baby will grow accustomed to reading as an interaction rather than a passive activity.
For example: “This is a wooden book. This is a dog. This dog has soft white fur and a little black nose. Can you see his nose? It’s here. And these are his floppy ears. What sound does a dog make? Woof woof!”
When you come to the end, choose a phrase like “We finished reading! or The End.” and repeat this at the end of every book. Your child will soon recognize this as a signal that storytime is done. If she’s still interested, you can read it again.
3. Keep a basket of books and rotate
Choose a few books for your child to choose from and display them in a basket at his eye level, like on a low shelf, for him to choose from. Rotate the books every couple of weeks just like your child’s toys to keep things interesting. Once your child starts walking, you can start using a bookshelf at his eye level.
4. Embrace repetitive reading
Children often request the same book be read again and again. This repetition helps develop literacy. Repetition is favored by children because of the comfort, confidence, phonemic awareness, and expanding vocabulary that comes with it. Incorporate reading into your bedtime routine. Ending the day with a favorite book establishes a nice routine and sense of security with which to end the day.
“Reading the same book each night at bedtime signals the end of the day, gives children a sense of security, and helps them begin to connect the spoken with the written words.”
5. Encourage exploration with the eyes and hands
When you finish reading, offer your child a turn to explore the book. It is normal at this stage for babies to want to explore everything with their mouths. If your little one starts teething on the book, it’s best to offer a teething toy so he learns that books are for reading and looking, and not for teeth!
6. Promote sensorial learning
Children learn through their senses and reading is an opportunity to engage with all of them. Your child listens to your words, watches your lips produce them, notices your facial expressions, engages with the contents of the book, and feels the warmth of reading with you. All of these moments create the magical experience of storytime.