Reading to your baby!

When should I start reading to my baby?

It's never too early. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud daily to your baby starting at 6 months of age — about the time when he'll really begin to enjoy looking at books with you. But Jim Trelease, longtime read-aloud expert and author of the Read Aloud Handbook, says that you can start when your child's a newborn. No matter what your baby's age, of course, reading provides a great opportunity for cuddling and bonding.

Why is reading to my baby good for him?

Reading will help build your child's vocabulary, stimulate his imagination, and improve his communication skills. In fact, the more you speak to your child from the get-go, the better it is for his growth and development. Studies have shown that language skills — and even intelligence — are related to how many words an infant hears each day. In one study, babies whose parents spoke to them a lot (an average of 2,100 words an hour) scored higher on standard tests when they reached age 3 than did children whose parents hadn't been as verbal. A running commentary on the state of the neighborhood during your walk and naming your child's body parts as you bathe him are good ways to chat. Reading is one more fun way to add variety to your verbal interactions.

What should I read to my infant?

For the first few months, your infant will be picking up on the rhythm of language — rather than the content — as he hears you speak. So when it comes to reading materials, anything goes — children's books, a magazine, or even that novel you've been trying to finish.

Your baby may be fascinated by pictures with bright colors and sharp contrast, though, so stock up on board books and picture books, too.

Once he's no longer an infant, what types of books will be best for my baby?

Let your child be the judge. Books with colorful drawings and catchy phrases are sure to please. Since babies love to grab and mouth everything they can reach, board books or those with heavy-duty pages will best survive the wear and tear. Some children prefer books with photographs, while others like books with built-in activities — images hidden under flaps or behind sliding partitions. (Don't choose anything too delicate, though.) Once you've explored a favorite type of book, try another. Your baby's sure to enjoy something completely different every once in a while.

Your baby may also enjoy the singsong rhythm and playful wording of nursery rhymes. They're easy to remember, so you can chant them during daily routines ("Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub").

What about videos and books on tape?

Babies need to feel an emotional connection with the words being spoken or they simply filter out the language, so steer clear of books on tape, as well as radio and television. "As with all activities parents do with kids, it's how attentive parents are to their kids' responses that is so critical," says Betty Hart, professor emeritus of human development at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

As for videos, experts say most are best reserved for children over age 3. "Putting babies in front of a machine is alienating," says Eveline Carsman, editor of Children's Review Newsletter. In her opinion, videos aimed at young babies have no redeeming qualities that compensate for babies being left alone to watch them.
Should I try to teach my baby sounds and letters from the start?

When you read to your young child, focus on the pleasure at hand, not the alphabetical learning experience. An early emphasis on teaching letters, sounds, and syllables can sap the enjoyment of story time. If you read to your child enough, he'll eventually — when he's ready — make the connection between the sounds of words and the letters on the pages. In the meantime, teaching him to enjoy reading is a much more valuable lesson than nailing his phonics at an early age.

~Courtesy of BabyCenter

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