We hear it from family and friends, doctors and educators: read often to your young child. They say the first 3 years of your child’s life have a major effect on his development and success in life. Of course, not all is lost in the years after that. But, the difference in a child who is raised in a home that reads books and one who raised without books is profound.
But, can you read to an infant?
Now, you may be thinking: What does that even look like? Am I supposed to use flashcards? Drills? …With my 4 month old?!
Uh, no. Never.
Simply put, to raise a reader have a home filled with books. Then, just look, read and play with those books often and use a few simple, fun activities during your day with your child. Again, I am not talking about using flashcards. We want our children to grow up knowing about our world and experience reading as fun, not a task. After all, the entire point behind reading is to communicate. The better you know how to communicate, the more successful you will be. And you can help your infant learn and become a communicator in some sweet, fun ways.
Why Should You Read to Your Baby?
To build up a habit of shared reading time. If you begin reading aloud to your child from infancy, you will build up a routine, one your child will not resist later on. Besides, an infant is the most compliant child ever. Your baby can just sit there with you, close and cozy, as she hears your lovely reading voice (and it will be lovely to her because it is you!). This time of life is the best opportunity to get into the habit of reading aloud to your little one and for your child to get to know your reading voice.
To fall (maybe back) in love with reading. Until a child is a few months old, they cannot discern actual words or even see very clearly, which is why sharing a book you are reading or reading simple, brightly colored books a few times a day is best. But, you can literally read anything! Your phone, a news article, or that adult fiction thriller you can’t put down while you feed your baby.
For those who are not in love with reading: do not be discouraged. Thankfully, there are so many fun children’s books out there that if you give a few a try, you will find yourself falling in love with stories again. Reading does not have to be the chore it may have been in school. Read only what interests you. Also, read a little at a time.
To show your child reading brings pleasure. If you are reading aloud to your child, then you are sending the unspoken message that reading makes you happy. Okay, and if reading doesn’t bring you pleasure, it will the more you do it. Besides, what matters with an infant is the close bond and routine you are building. You are spending close contact together in a sweet way that is free from distractions, and, eventually, your child will grow to associate reading with pleasure.
To build a bond with your baby. Sometimes, parents bring home a baby and do not feel much connection with the child. It sounds unbelievable, but it happens. Reading with your newly born and growing baby helps to build a bond. Even if you bonded with your baby from day one, spending the close contact with your little one reading is an excellent way to nurture the bond you have created.
Reading is not the only way to raise a reader
But, I will let you in on a little secret: reading books with your newborn is not the only way to help raise a reader and ultimately a successful adult. There are many other ways to help strengthen the connections your child is constantly making in the world around him. These activities are what we will explore in the rest of this series, “On Raising a Reader: Baby Edition.”
When my son was first born, I personally never knew when to read to him, even though I had much knowledge about literacy. I was home with him all day and I got extremely bored, just to be honest. He would lay there, cute and sleepy. Then I found out that my local library had a baby story time. I was beyond excited to attend with my newborn. When we got there, he was too fussy for the program so I had to leave. It wasn’t until a month later, after I started working again, that I attended the program. And it was nothing like what I envisioned.
They mainly did rhymes and songs. They brought out baby toys and did peek-a-boo games with provided blankets. I thought, Wasn’t this called “baby story time”…where are all the books? While it was fun, I had never heard about why doing simple rhymes and songs with my baby were important.
But, they are. And I’m so happy to share with you not only why, but some examples of awesome songs, rhymes and games to do with your baby. Babies have a huge capacity to learn about their worlds, about language and are geared to communicate. Let’s help them on this path by simply singing, talking, playing, writing (yes, it will make sense!) and reading together daily.
Did you ever attend a baby story time? What kind of books or songs do you do with your little one?