You’ve probably heard about the importance of reading to kids—but did you know that you should start sharing story time with your little one when they’re still an infant? While it might feel a bit silly to read books to a baby who can barely hold their head up (let alone understand the words you’re reading), reading to your baby early (and often) is actually one of the most important activities you can do.
Why Is It Important to Read To My Baby?
Studies show that reading books to your baby has the potential to boost their vocabulary, literacy and reading skills as many as four years later, when they’re almost ready for kindergarten. Isn’t that amazing?! To put the impact of story time in perspective—a 2019 study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics found that kids who are read to every day are exposed to around 78,000 words every year…that adds up to 1.4 million words over five years.
And it’s not only about reading skills—it’s also about creating relationships and building a bond with your baby. Believe it or not, the nurturing relationships formed between a parent and child can also promote early brain development, as well as social-emotional development. During one-on-one special story time, your little one will not only be soothed by hearing your voice (their favorite voice in the world!), but also begin to pick up on the tone, inflection and rhythm of the language spoken in your home.
Sharing picture books with your infant also exposes them to new and interesting visuals that they simply wouldn’t see around your house during the day otherwise. Even from 0 to 3 months when an infant’s vision is limited, your baby can start focusing on patterns and contrasting shades, then begin to get familiar with colors, shapes and even letters as they get older.
Tips for Reading to Babies of All Ages
Here are a few things to keep in mind that will make reading a fun, enjoyable activity that will continue well into their school years:
- Ensure Stories are Age Appropriate: Don’t expect your squirmy little one to sit through a chapter book. Keep books short for little ones until they develop a longer attention span.
- Go Off-Script: While reading the story in books is fun, you shouldn’t always feel the need to read each book word-for-word. Take time to point to pictures and say the names while reading to younger babies. When your child gets older, ask them questions about the story or pictures—or even see if they can complete the phrases as they start to remember the words.
- Be Patient: If your baby isn't acting interested, you’re not failing. Remember: babies have incredibly short attention spans. They’re so focused on exploring their worlds that other things simply might capture their attention (this includes being more interested in putting the book in their mouth than listening to the story).
Above all else, keep it fun. Story time is a great chance to have some fun, practice different voices, sing songs, and sneak in some extra cuddles with your little one. Happy reading!