Why Read to Your baby?
As a proud book-lover and children's book collector (I may have an addiction), I've been reading to my girls since the day they came home from the hospital. Typically when I tell people I read daily to my newborn they give me that eyebrows raised look and I know they are wondering, "WHY?" Why would I would read to my barely-able-to-keep-her-eyes-awake newborn when she's too little to understand anything I'm saying?
Granted an infant won't understand everything you're reading in the beginning but think about this, you wouldn't wait until your child could understand what you were saying before you started speaking to him or her, right? Nor would you bypass lullabies until your baby could carry a tune or wait until he or she could shake a rattle before you offered them any toys. So why would you wait to read to your baby if you want to raise a reader?
Some of the Benefits of Reading aloud to your baby:
|Summer Nicole Photography
Believe it or not, by the time your baby reaches their first birthday they will have learned all the sounds needed to speak their native language. The more stories you read aloud, the more words your child will be exposed to = the better he or she will be able to talk.
Here are my personal feelings:
- Teaches your baby about communication.
- Introduces concepts to them such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way.
- Builds listening, memory, and vocabulary skills.
- Gives babies information about the world around them.
- Hearing words helps your baby to build a rich network of words.
- When you read, your child hears you using many different emotions and expressive sounds, which fosters social and emotional development.
When your child is very young, reading is primarily about bonding
, not building IQ; the language boost your child gets is a bonus. The act of reading itself is a chance to slow down and spend time together. It's that connection that's behind instilling a lifetime love of reading in children. The most important reason to read aloud is that it makes a connection between the things your baby loves the most — your voice and closeness to you — and books.
Spending time reading to your baby shows that reading is a skill worth learning. And, if infants and children are read to often with joy, excitement, and closeness, they begin to associate books with happiness
— and budding readers are created. So don't worry if she'd rather mouth the pages than follow the story for now. Instead, enjoy the one-on-one time bonding with your baby.
Here are my 5 tips to raising happy readers:
1. MAKE TIME TO READ EVERYDAY.
My kids love to read just about anytime (including when they are going potty) but I've noticed that they are especially attentive and easier to read to when they are calm, which for us is usually around nap time and right before bed. Reading to my baby when she's calm, fed and relaxed has made a huge difference in her desire to want to sit in my lap with books in the middle of the day to read.
Reading before bed everyday in particular is great for setting a routine with your children and most kids really seem to respond well to continuity. Routines help them to feel in control and safe. Every night right before crawling under the bed covers, my three year old gets to pick two books she wants us to read to her and either my husband or I (we trade off every other night) get to choose one book as well. That way she get's to hear at least 3 books every night which is her "treat" for getting ready for bed without complaint.
See what I did there...#momwin. If I'm being honest, I know my girls enjoy reading with me but they LOVE when their daddy reads to them. It's a good idea if you can to have you and your spouse take turns reading to your children at night. Men and women approach reading out loud differently. Women like to ask factual questions, such as, “How many apples do you see?” and men typically favor more abstract questions like, "Oh look, a ladder. Do you remember when I had that ladder in my truck?"
Whenever you can make it work, whatever schedule you decide on, do your best to make time to read everyday.
2. GET CREATIVE
|Summer Nicole Photography
I'm a mom so I'm realistic. Sometimes traditional reading just isn’t in the cards.
So I say, don’t push it. The last thing you want is for reading time to turn it into a battle where your little ones will associate reading with BAD. I understand that it's difficult to read to a wiggly, crying baby or a child who only seems to want to eat or toss the book in front of them, but this is where you can get creative with your child and use books in unexpected ways. If my little one isn't in the mood to sit and touch the touchy-feely book and keeps pulling her hand away or trying to wiggle free, then I might use her feet to have her feel the different textures.
(By the way, this method is also a great tool to break my toddler out of one of her dreaded "three-nager" tantrums... heaven help me.) There are days during reading time when we don't actually read books but we explore books. Instead of reading I ask my toddler to help me find things on every page
, "Can you find a mouse?" When my 1 year old was really little and practicing her tummy-time I use to place a touchy-feely book in front of her to play with to distract her from the fact she hated being on her tummy.
We might tell the story of what we see on a page. My baby sometimes likes to carry books from the bookshelf to me and then back again. We've used books to build "tents" for toys to hide in and practiced counting with how many books my toddler can hold. So get creative and find a new way to implement books into your child's daily play.
3. ALWAYS HAVE A BOOK HANDY.
|Summer Nicole Photography
You never know when you might get stuck in traffic or have to wait 20 minutes in the pharmacy line and books can come in super handy when you need something to keep your little ones entertained. I suggest always having some books in your car, diaper bag, your baby's crib, your toddler's room, and possibly in your purse if you know there might be a wait where ever you're going. I like to have a small vinyl or bath book handy when I go out with my kids so there isn't the weight of a board book adding to the indent on my shoulder. A vinyl or cloth book is also something that if needed, my baby can chew, squish and toss and it shouldn't damage the book.
4. DON'T BE BORING.
"You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child."
Sing nursery rhymes, make funny animal sounds, change up your voice, ask questions, point out things on the pages— anything that shows that reading is fun! I also like to clap my babies hands or bounce her if we're reading about animals or cars and she always seems to giggle when I involve her in the reading process.
Here are some other examples of how you can make reading fun!
- Echo read: you read a phrase, and the child echos it back.
- Read into a microphone. (If you can take it.)
- Sing read.
- Quiet-Loud. Read quietly then randomly read loudly then back to quiet again.
- Listen to an audiobook! There are tons at most libraries, and it’s great for kids to hear another adult reading to them sometimes.
- Read to your pet or toy. It's pretty funny for all parties involved.
- Take turns: you read a page, then they read a page.
- Whatever you do, DON'T sound like Ben Stein when you read! (See clip below.)
5. READ BY EXAMPLE.
Your child walks like you, talks like you, absorbs everything you do. So set the right example when it comes to reading.
If you want to build a culture of literacy in your home them you need to read by example. Telling them, “Reading is important” is virtually meaningless if you never sit down in front of them and read a book, newspaper or magazine of your own.
If all they see is you collapsing in front of the TV or eagerly sneaking off to play on your phone during your down time then they will learn that's how one spends the invaluable minutes of one’s life. Trust me, I am talking about myself as much as anyone, especially during those sleep-deprived months with a newborn. Even if I was reading my Entertainment Weekly magazine instead of my novel, my girls took note and my toddler always asked, "Whatcha reading mommy?"
As parents, we sometimes get wrapped up with what our children should be doing to be successful. But we often forget that children often learn by example. So grab a book and take a load off…for your child’s sake, of course!
|Summer Nicole Photography
"We have an obligation to read aloud to our children.
To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves.
Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.
Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. "If you want your children to be intelligent," he said, "read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand." -Neil Gaiman
Kelly is the founder of the Delicious Reads blog and book club. Kelly loves to share her book obsession with anyone in a 20 foot radius of herself, which thanks to the internet, can include the whole world.
Follow her on Instagram (@deliciousreads) to know what good books to read next.
Photo Credit: Summer Nicole Photography