You wouldn’t wait until your baby started forming words and sentences before talking to him or her—so why hold off on introducing the joys of reading to your little one? The benefits of reading to children have been proven by hundreds of studies led by education experts. Although most of the positive effects become evident as the child reaches toddler and preschool ages, many of the important influences are forged during infancy. By reading to your new baby regularly, you’ll be helping to build a foundation for lifelong learning and development.
For most parents, preparing for baby’s arrival means purchasing nursery furniture, clothes, a stroller and car seat, and other essential gear. But it’s also important to plan for your new arrival’s mental well-being. By building a collection of carefully selected children’s books, you’ll provide baby with the stimulation he needs during those important first weeks and months. In a time of economic instability, a children’s library is an investment that will never lose its value.
While it may seem that a newborn or infant won’t get much from books at first, development experts concur that the first year of a child’s life is a highly formative time, during which he’ll learn the basic sounds and concepts that will serve as the building blocks for cognitive development. Although your little one may not be able to follow a plot or associate words with images yet, he’ll reap numerous benefits from reading time:
- Bonding. When you share a book with your baby, she’ll enjoy hearing the comforting cadence of your voice, feeling your heartbeat, and smelling your familiar scent. Over time, she’ll come to associate books with close, intimate time with Mommy or Daddy.
- Early language skills. It may be a while before your baby begins vocalizing words and phrases, but that doesn’t mean early reading sessions aren’t important. By hearing you read aloud, your little one is exposed to the vowels, consonants, and syllables that form his native language.
- Cognitive stimulation. A baby’s developing brain can be likened to a blank canvas, ready to be painted and shaped by the millions of sensory experiences she’ll be presented with during her first year of life. The colors, textures, and sounds in books will help accelerate your baby’s mental growth and awareness of her surroundings.
- More restful sleep. Reading to babies can be a soothing, comforting activity but don’t be surprised if it takes a few sessions before you and your little one get into a rhythm with the right books and the right routine. (The Bright & Early books in our Dr. Seuss™ & His Friends book club, with their simpler concepts and shorter narratives, cater to the attention span of a baby or toddler.) By incorporating calm, unhurried reading into your little one’s nighttime routine, you’ll be helping to set the stage for a restful night’s sleep.
- Healthy expression and communication. Through exposure to engaging, interactive reading experiences, babies will be better equipped to relate to those around them and process their own emotions.
Here Are Some Guidelines When Choosing Books For Babies
When choosing books conducive to the benefits of reading to babies, there are no hard and fast rules. Although there are books that are specially designed for certain stages of development, anything is fair game. That said, here are some guidelines you can use to help ensure maximum benefits for your child.
- Newborns are drawn to bold and starkly contrasting colors. They also enjoy geometric patterns, shiny surfaces, and noisy or “crackly” textures.
- Most infants have a tendency to put things in their mouths. So, it’s a good idea to choose board books or cloth books.
- Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait until birth to begin reading books to children. From the seventh month of fetal development, your baby can hear what’s going on outside the womb, especially the sound of your voice. While reading to your unborn baby, you may notice she’ll respond by kicking and moving, the first of many interactions with you. By the time she enters the world, she’ll be primed for many more shared stories to help her reap the benefits of early literacy.