‘Can I read books to my infant?’, asked a concerned mother whose baby was having a difficult time sleeping at night.
‘What?’ smirked another mother. ‘Your baby will have his entire life to read books, why do you want to make him study now? He is just a few months old. He cannot understand a book. Please let him play and let him be a baby. What is the hurry to give a book?’ she laughed.
The other mother did not say anything. Though she knew that reading books can help a baby but she wasn't sure. True, she thought- what would a baby understand in a book?
Many mothers are not sure at what age we can introduce books to babies or children. Well, books cannot do any harm and you can introduce them to your kids as soon as possible! If you're wondering when to start reading to your baby, it's great to do right from the start! For reading to your child, you don’t have to wait until your child starts talking. Reading books and stories to babies from early infancy, teaches her to recognize the sounds and rhythm of language. Reading is also associated with cuddling with you and it is comforting and fun. Reading is also a great way for fathers, grandparents, and older siblings to bond with the baby. Studies show that children who are routinely read to from a young age develop improved language skills and increased interest in reading, which helps improve their readiness for preschool and kindergarten.
It is both- quantity and quality of book reading in the early years and toddler years that help in developing early literacy skills like name writing, beginning sound awareness and early reading skills. (source: psychologytoday.com)
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Reading to a baby or an infant
Is your baby too young to be read to? At the infancy stage or before 6 months, your baby is more likely to try to put a book in her mouth than to turn its pages. But that doesn't mean it's too soon to make reading a part of your little one's life. Research shows that reading to infants can help jump-start brain development and can even make little babies more receptive to learning. How does this happen?
When we read aloud to our baby, we are following a certain rhythm and tone of voice. This helps in making the baby recognize that different sounds have different meanings- this is the foundation of speech and comprehension and babies who are read to at an early age are more ready to grasp language and communication skills.
How to introduce books to babies?
Make it a habit to read to your baby a few times during the day. Make the most of reading when you're in a relaxed mood and your baby is receptive to stories, such as after a nap or just before bedtime. Hold the book at about 12 inches from his face so that he can see the pictures. Start with a few minutes at first and then gradually increase the reading time.
- Make reading a habit
When reading to your child tune up your voice and make it sound expressive. Speak slowly and clearly so that each word in understood. Babies learn best from exaggerated and sing-song voices rather than dull voices.
- Expressive tone and voice
Does your baby have a favorite book? Does your baby ask you to read that book 5 times at a stretch? Read it as many times as the baby wants you to. Repeat the same story and the same words. This develops phonetics and helps your baby in learning the language. It also makes your baby feel comfortable, confident, and secure because he knows what to expect next.
- Read and reread
Let children explore the book. Babies cannot turn the pages on their own but an 11 month old can certainly try to turn the pages and go through the book and a 3 year old can certainly lift and turn. They might skip pages at times and you should let them do that. It is fine to skin some pages in between but more importantly, let the child explore.
- Let the baby turn the pages
Board books and picture books with their beautiful illustrations are a great way to help the baby learn to love books. Every page in such books features clear, colorful photos of lots of babies, animals, things along with short, simple phrases. These are great books that children will be interested to look at and learn. Although you can read the story, most babies will be more interested in looking at the pictures and turning the pages than in hearing you read a story. Even older babies may be more interested in asking, “What’s that?” to pictures in a book than in hearing an entire story.
- Get board books and picture books
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Reading Milestones or When to Introduce Books to Babies:
Remember, it's never too early to start reading a book to your baby. Even a newborn will enjoy cuddling in your arms and listening as you talk.
- Birth to 6 months: Yes, you can read to newborns. There have been many researches that have shown that newborns are calmed by the rhythmic sounds of lullabies and nursery rhymes. You can even sing a book to your newborn. These will be their first stories. Your baby may even begin to recognize a song or rhyme if you repeat it often. By the time she is 4 months old, your baby will show an interest in books and start to explore them by chewing or throwing them. Thus you should give them sturdy vinyl or cloth books that can survive chewing and are not easily torn.
- 6 months to 12 months: Now your baby is more interested in the story and looking at the bright pictures. They even start to make connections. You can promote your baby’s interest in books by looking at books with him and talking about the pictures, especially those that interest your baby. Your 8- or 9-month-old baby will also be interested to turn the pages. If you are raising your baby to become bilingual, this is the perfect age to introduce objects to your baby. Now you can tell her the words for the objects in both languages.
- 12 to 18 months: By this age the baby will be delighted to be reading with you and listening to you. Your baby will turn pages and name pictures of familiar objects. Simple stories and simple board books will be thoroughly enjoyed by your baby. Touch and feel books are one of the best books to introduce to babies as babies are natural explorers. They will love such books which they can touch and sniff while listening to the story.
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