I've always loved books, and getting to share all my childhood favourites with my son is an ongoing pleasure. One of the best things about having children has been watching them discover all the wonderful things the world has to offer that I already knew about! Now that my son is 8, we have shelves of baby books, toddler books, pre-schooler books and more, ready for my daughter to pick up and enjoy.
But she's 7 months old right now, and when she was tiny it was tricky to know how to introduce books to her, or whether it was really necessary.
The Benefits of Reading to Your Baby
Reading to your newborn is such an important developmental activity to weave into your day.
It helps with your child's early language skills.
Reading together builds a strong bond between you and your baby.
Introducing books from an early age and continuing to make them part of your family life will help grow a lifelong love of reading.
Introducing a bedtime story ritual can help cue your baby that it’s time for sleep and help them relax more quickly (and who doesn't want that?!).
What to read:
So - straight on to War and Peace? Maybe not just yet. It is true that young children are listening more to the tone of your voice as you read rather than what you say, so in theory you could read The Financial Review to them and they'd enjoy it. But there are so many beautiful books out there that it's worth finding something slightly more engaging! Here are some tips:
Very young babies are drawn to strong contrasts. So share books with bold patterns and shapes that they can engage with. Books with black and white images are perfect for this.
Babies love looking at faces! Books with mirrors built in, or just lots of different, clear expressions can help babies begin to learn about happy, sad and everything in between.
Babies love nursery rhymes, because listening to rhythmic language helps them learn to communicate. If you can find story books with rhymes then the musical feel of the language will appeal your baby, and help them engage with story time.
Board books - paper and baby drool: what a combination! The first year or so is probably not the time to get out your treasured Winnie the Pooh paperback to share. If your baby is anything like mine, it will go straight in their mouths. And with good reason - babies use their sensitive lips and tongue to learn about whatever new object they've found. You'll want hard wearing books for now!
How to read:
Cuddle up with your baby and, as you read through the story, point out what is on the page to them. Don't only focus on the words written down; add your own narrative based on what you can see. Is there a butterfly hovering over a flower in the corner of the page? Point it out to your child: "Can you see the butterfly with it's pretty wings? What colours can you see?".
Return to the same books over and over again. Babies love and learn from repetition. You'll soon see your baby smiling at familiar images or phrases. One of my favourite home videos is of my son sat on his Daddy's lap, as they read “Penguin and Pinecone” together, with my 2 year old filling in the ends of the sentences by memory. And now my son is reading the same book to his sister.
Don't panic if your baby seems to lose interest after a few minutes. Their attention spans are very short. Keep it little and often, and soon they will be grabbing their favourite books from the shelves and pushing them into your hands again and again.
Sharing story time with your baby can be so rewarding, so grab a book, and start collecting wonderful memories together.
About the Author
Peta O'Brien is a blogger from the UK. She is mum to Ethan, aged 8, and Erica, aged 7 months. She writes about her parenting experience at www.secondtimearound.blog