How & When to Start Reading To Your Baby: 10 Easy Tips
As a writer and an avid reader, the idea of creating a little bookworm was one of the main aspects of motherhood I was looking forward to.
Can you imagine how it felt when my daughter wasn’t interested in reading at all?
My little adventurer was much more interested in exploring the living room or hitting her own face with her favorite lovey than sitting still long enough to read a book with me!
Fast -forward 2 years, and my daughter is absolutely in love with books. We read multiple times a day, at her request.
Whether you’re a new mom and you’d like to read to your baby or you’ve already tried and your baby is not interested in books, let me reassure you, reading to your baby is SO worth the effort.
Reading provides a wealth of intellectual, linguistic, developmental, and emotional benefits that are well-worth the effort. Sometimes it just takes a little patience to get started!
Which is exactly why I created this ultimate guide! I want to help you learn the benefits of reading to your baby, how to get started, the best books to get you started, and what to do if your baby isn’t interested in reading at all (trust me, many babies will give you some push back!)
Are you ready? Let’s go create some bookworms!
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Reading to Babies and Brain Development: Reading to Your Baby Now Gives Them a Head Start
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
Before we take a look at how to read to your baby, let’s consider why you should read to your baby.
Did you know that 1 in 3 children start kindergarten without necessary literacy skills?
That means, before they even begin grade school, these children are academically behind and struggling. Thanks to dedicated teachers, many students are able to catch up with their peers by grade school. Having said that, what parent doesn’t want their children to have the best possible head start in life?
Reading to your baby early and often absolutely can provide him with the necessary skills he needs to thrive in school.
You see, there’s a neural pathway between language and literacy. As you read to your baby consistently, that pathway is naturally solidified. In addition, you’re also helping your baby develop communication skills by 1., speaking to him and 2., exposing him to new words.
Finally, there’s an emotional bond that forms from reading to baby that simply can’t be quantified.When you read to your baby, you’re interacting, you’re holding her in your lap, squeezing her tight when she becomes excited, laughing with her. Screen time just doesn’t provide the same effect.
Okay, so here’s the benefits of reading to your baby in a nutshell:
- Linked with development of early literacy and language skills
- Enhanced communication skills
- Vocabulary development
- Emotional bonding that lasts a lifetime
Some studies indicate that it can protect your baby from social, behavioral, and learning disabilities, such as ADHD and dyslexia.
How to Read to Your Baby: 10 Simple Tips
1 Start As Early As Possible
It’s never too early or too late to start reading to your baby. You can begin when they are newborns, the week you come from the hospital. You can even begin when your baby is in the womb (If you happen to be pregnant, this is one really cool article about reading to your unborn baby)
Having said all that, if your baby is a year old and you’ve never really gotten in to reading, you can totally still start now. She may not have the tolerance to sit on your lap and read a book yet (that takes time), but, if you start reading when your toddler is just around you, that still makes an impact (more on this in a moment)
2. Make Reading Time Part of Your Routine
If you’ve bounced around my blog a little bit before, you know I am all about developing a solid routine with your baby. Why?
Babies THRIVE on routine. It gives them the stable, consistent environment they need to learn in.
Reading to your baby as part of your routine solidifies this natural rhythm and it makes it easier for you. Your baby expects your reading session. It’s just something you do every day. So, he’s much less likely to object. And, eventually, this little ritual will become something he craves and feels safe clinging to.
You can read to your baby sporadically daily, but I’ve found that the best results come from reading at a certain time of the day. My favorite time is before naptime and bedtime. It helps my daughter unwind and it triggers her urge to sleep. Plus, if I’ve had an exhausting time with her (which will happen with toddlers…) this provides a time for us as well.
RELATED POST: How to Create the Perfect Baby Sleep Schedule
3. Buy Age-Appropriate Books
This can be a doozy, especially for book-enthusiasts. You remember reading a favorite book as a child and dream of reading it to your baby…except your baby would much rather see and touch colorful fishies than read Dr. Seus’ Are You My Mother at this age.
If you try to read the wrong book to your baby, it’s going to end in disaster!
For 0-6 months, start with colorful 1-2 word books with very interesting pictures or feel-y books. Below are a few of my favorites for 0-6 months:
- Baby Touch and Feel: Animals
- See, Touch, Feel: A First Sensory Book
- Little One, God Made You Special
- Noisy Trucks
- Just Like the Animals (Soft, peek-a-boo flap book!)
Once your baby begins to get a grasp on language skills (saying a few words, signing, or very clearly indicates his wants), you can move on to short sentence books.
Here are a few of my favorite books for 12-24mo babies:
- Ten Little Night Stars
- The Magical Toy Box
- I Love You to the Moon and Back
- Grandma’s Kitchen
- Hallmark Press & Play Recordable Storybook: That’s What Grandmas Do! (Also a great keepsake)
4. Start With Small Time Limits
How long should you read to your baby?
If you have a 6-month-old, chances are, you’re only going to get about a minute in before he wiggles out of your lap. That’s okay. Below we’ll talk about techniques to keep your baby engaged. For now, start small while you establish this routine. In my experience, a 12 month old can sit still for a little longer, maybe 3-5 minutes. At 2.5, my daughter happily sits for reading time for around 15 minutes (with the right books).
The important thing is not to force it. Reading time should be fun.
5. Read the Same Books Over and Over
Now, YOU might want to expand your baby’s vocabulary and literature selection, but remember, babies LOVE repetition. They crave it. So, once your baby finds a book that they love (or before that even) feel free to read it over and over again. I would recommend cycling between the same 2-4 books.
You can change it up every so often, but don’t feel pressured to.
6. Interact with Your Baby When You’re Reading
Did you know that how you read your books to your kid affects how much they’ll learn? One study looked at how the parents interacted with their kids while reading. Children learned more from reading sessions where parents pointed things out and spoke enthusiastically.
So, when you’re reading to your baby, be interactive! Point things out, repeat words, make sound effects! If your baby wants to go back to the previous page and ask questions, by all means, feel free to!
The goal isn’t just reading but comprehension.
7. Narrate with Enthusiasm
On that note, if your baby hates reading, it could be your narration skills. This is your opportunity to practice some of latent Shakespearean talent, Mama. Make animal noises, speak in funny voices, cry, shout, whisper…anything you can to engage your baby.
8. Take Books Everywhere
This is how my daughter finally started to read. We would take her books on car rides and she’d finally sit and “read” the pages. Soon after, she developed a true love for sitting with me and reading them. I think lots of exposure was our secret weapon to success.
9. Don’t Stop With Books!
My little girl now recognizes the letters on my shirt, labels on her toys, and even the addresses on my mail. Obviously, she can’t read these letters, but she does sputter out a few sounds. It’s so fun when your baby starts to realize that the world is filled with material to read. To help facilitate this, I try to read aloud whatever writing she’s trying to make sense of.
If you have a toddler and you allow screen time, you can integrate programs, apps, and educational shows that teach the alphabet and other key language skills. For example, I let my daughter use the app, ABCmouse.com, which has a lesson designed to teach toddlers the alphabet and word comprehension (you can try the app free here).
There are lots of educational Youtube channels that focus on developing reading skills as well, such as Brain Candy and Blippi.
While nothing beats actually reading to your baby, educational apps and videos can help you unwind for a few minutes while your little one learns.
10. Read Even when Baby Isn’t Interested in Books
Let’s say you’ve already TRIED all of this before. You’ve narrated with exciting voices, you’re interactive, you’ve already chosen age-appropriate books and still…your baby is not interested in books. In fact, maybe you’d even go so far as to say that your baby hates reading.
My best advice: GIVE IT TIME.
Be totally casual about it if you have to. One tactic I used was to read even when my daughter was playing with her toys. Eventually she gravitated over. Then, once I had her interest, we began the actual routine. Also keep in mind that it could be your baby’s age, or the time of day (reading when he’s overtired), or maybe you’ve been a teeny tiny bit too hardcore about it in the past so it’s just not fun.
Just try to keep a positive attitude about it and experiment with different methods and books.
Reading to Your Baby Can Produce Life-long Benefits!
Now that you know the benefits of reading to your baby and some of my favorite tips for getting started, it’s time to try it out! Even if your baby isn’t interested in books right now, use these tips consistently to gradually develop a love for reading in your baby. Eventually, reading to your baby will become an activity you both will love.
If you have any questions about my experience, just let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, let me know how it goes! Good luck!