One of my fondest memories as a child is of me sitting at bedtime with my Mom or Dad, and having them read me a bedtime story. I was thoroughly entertained as the stories came alive on my little bed – especially when my Dad read as he made sure that every character had a different and individual voice. The sound of their voices was also a comfort that lulled me to sleep – no matter what the story was about, I always felt relaxed and safe.
Now, some people may think that reading to a child from a very young age may not be beneficial, but there have been many studies that show that reading to your child, even as an infant, can benefit them from a language perspective, and creatively grow their imaginations. We started reading to our baby from 8 weeks old and the change in the different ways he reacts to books and reading is fascinating. Back then he enjoyed us reading to him just for the sake of security and bonding – now at 4 months, he openly giggles at all the parts he enjoys and the stories he likes best.
I am lucky enough to have a Mom who kept all of my and my brother’s favourite children’s books, and now my son (being the first grandchild) is the lucky owner of them all. My husband also has a mild addiction to buying books and so, our baby has a pretty extensive library already. Now, we’re not going to get into Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree just yet, but those he can respond to now enrich his days and will hopefully give him a love of reading.
Tips for Reading to your Baby – things I’ve found really useful to engage my baby:
1. Choose a book that has large pictures.
With their attention spans being small as it is, reading to small babies from books that have intricate pictures painted by high artists is not the best idea. Some of my favourites are the Spot and Mr Men and Little Miss series. They’re not text heavy, and the pictures are simply drawn, and with all the bright colours, are easy for baby to take in as you describe them. So that takes us to the next tip…
2. Describe everything – even what’s on the front cover (and even the back cover if you like).
While you are reading, describe the pictures you are seeing on the pages. Explain what is happening in the picture and also remark on the colours of the objects in the picture. While this may seem tedious to you by the fifth time you’ve described the same dog, your baby will enjoy it.
3. Use your voice.
Talk your baby through the process of reading a book. When a page spread is done, tell your baby that you’re going to turn the page. Then, even if the book doesn’t call for it, make sounds for your baby while you read. Not all of us are exactly imitation experts, but we all have an idea of how certain things sound. So if there’s a lion in the story, make a roaring sound, or if there’s a train running along, add a little “Choo choo!”
4. Allow for play.
Babies love to touch (and eat) anything they’re interested in, and the pages of a book are no different. Allow your child to sit – or lie down – with a book to explore it – as he gets older he will do this by himself. Puffy waterproof bath books are great for this, as well as books with thick cardboard pages and rounded corners. When he touches and holds the pages (and eventually turns them), this also helps develop his motor skills.
5. Your baby will let you know when he’s had enough.
As in all things baby, you will know when he’s no longer enjoying a book. Don’t feel that you need to read an entire book with your baby from start to finish. If he’s done by the 4th page, then that’s totally OK. Put in a book mark and come back to it later.
There are many parenting books out there that say that bedtime is the best time to read to your baby. If yours is anything like mine, reading excites and energises him, so we prefer to read to him during the day as part of his daytime activities. As each little bundle is different, you will know when the best time is to read to your child. There is no right or wrong time of day to read to your baby, just get going and take both of you on an adventure.