By Kim Farrell
As a book lover, one of the things I was most excited for as a new mom was reading to my son. I stocked up on baby books while I was pregnant, dreaming of the moment I could snuggle up with him, read him stories, and watch his eyes light up in awe. I imagined him being fully engaged and hanging on my every word. But I quickly realized that reading to an infant is quite a different experience than I had been expecting.
In those very early days, I hardly attempted it because there never seemed to be an appropriate time. In case you didn’t know, newborns spend most of their time sleeping, eating, or crying. So, during which of those activities would reading a book come into play?
He is eight months old now, and much more interactive; playing with toys, smiling, giggling, and babbling. But even now, when I try reading to him, he seems more interested in eating the book than looking at the pictures or listening to the words. So, it got me thinking: aside from fulfilling my own personal desires, is there really any point in reading to my son at this age? Is he getting anything out of the experience?
When I decided to do some research on this topic, I found that in fact, research shows that kids who are read to and talked to know more words by age 2 than their peers who did not have the same experiences. They also are more likely to learn to read on time than kids who have not been read to.
I’d say these are great reasons to hit the books right away! But if you want to know more about why this is the case, continue on down this page.
First and foremost, reading to your child is a bonding experience at any age. This is true even for the newest of newborns. Your baby’s comprehension of the story or book itself is irrelevant on this front. They will find comfort simply in being close to you and listening to your soothing voice.
Reading to your baby will also help build their language skills. While it may not always seem like it, your little one is listening. And, while infants may not yet comprehend all the words you are saying, they process more subtle things like fluctuations in tone and pitch. Getting into the habit of reading aloud will also help with their vocabulary as they grow and begin to learn how to speak. Think of it as building a strong foundation for their language development down the line.
Regular reading sessions will also help to refine their listening skills. They will be relying on you to read the words and tell the story, which in turn requires them to sit still and be quiet. Even at a very young age, babies process this type of information to gain a better understanding of how the world works.
In addition to language, reading to your baby supports his or her social and emotional development as well. Again, while it may not seem like an infant is paying much attention to the contents inside the book, they are picking up on more subtle cues; we whisper when we need to be quiet, we shout when we are angry, we emphasize certain parts of a sentence when we are asking a question. All of these things help prepare your baby for interactions with the world and other people.
Last, by certainly not least, is the fact that babies love routine. Establishing a reading routine can be a wonderful way to provide stability to your baby’s day, and help them through transitions, such as winding down for bedtime. There is a reason books are often associated with bedtime — it works!
These are just a few reasons why it’s never too early to start reading to our children, and I’m sure there are many more! But if I haven’t convinced you yet, you don’t need to take my word for it. Check out any of these great resources for more information:
Article originally posted on Medium.