If you want your child to have positive attitudes towards books, or to grow up feeling good about books and reading, it is very important that they start having these interactions from an early age. This is the only way to keep them motivated enough to actively seek out books as they grow.
So, when should you start?
Well, babies are never too young to be read to. In fact, the earlier you start, the better. A great way to do this is to incorporate reading sessions to your baby's routine, for example by reading to them as they breastfeed. When you do this, they grow up being familiar and comfortable with books.
Although newborns may not understand the words, reading to them still has tremendous benefits to their development. Listening to the words as they come out of your mouth helps stimulate their hearing development. Plus, as they hear those words, it helps lay foundations that aid in the development of listening skills later in life.
How to develop your baby's early interest in books and reading
Sure, reading plays an important role in every child's overall development. But how can you make them want it and enjoy it? How can you develop your baby's early interest in books? Well, here are a few tips:
Use baby friendly books– There are books that have been specifically designed to make kids love them. Go for books with high contrast and bright colors. There are also water-resistant books that your baby can bring with them to the bath, or cloth books that can be washed and dried when they inevitably get dirty. The idea is to make your baby enjoy having books around them, which will help build their confidence and love of reading.
Snuggle up with a book– Whenever you hold your baby, try as much as you can to make a book part of the equation. Look through the book while they are close to you. They will feel safe and comfortable with the book around them, and in doing so develop positive feelings towards books and reading.
Let baby lead– As you read to them, you need to be on the lookout for cues that your baby is actually enjoying the story. If they like a particular page, linger there for a while. If they get fussy, pick another book or stop altogether. Reading needs to be fun and enjoyable for them.
Make the book reachable– Keep the books near the rest of your baby's toys. Let them reach out and take whichever book they want whenever they want. Just be sure that all the books that are within reach are durable, clean, and possibly chewable, because they will eventually end up in their little mouths.
Make reading a routine– Babies love patterns. Routines make them comfortable, because they love the familiar. If you read to them at a specific time every day, or before or after a certain activity every time, they will start anticipating reading sessions and grow to enjoy them more.
Here are a few tips to help you take your reading sessions to a whole other level:
- Take your time. And take it a few minutes at a time. Babies have short attention spans, and you do not want them to be bored. So, forget about finishing the story and stop when they decide they have had enough.
- Take your time with the pictures. Talk about them, and if your baby can talk, let them make up their own stories based on the pictures.
- Let your little one turn the pages by themselves.
- Act out the story. Do voices and just immerse yourself entirely into the story. It will be more fun for both of you.
- Show them the words you are reading by running your fingers along them as you read.
It is important to remember that every baby is different. How they respond to books is different with every one of them.
If your baby is really young, start with cuddly books. Make sure the books feel good to touch and are tough enough to be bitten and chewed on. As your baby grows, go for more interactive books, like pop-up books or books with sounds to engage them even more.