Few things are as fulfilling and rewarding as reading to or with your child. I am not sure if enough emphasis can be laid on benefits of reading to babies and toddlers, but research has it that parents must start reading to their children during infancy. Reading forms the strongest base for cognitive, language, communication and vocabulary development and should be a part of a child’s daily routine.
I have been reading to my toddler since she was about 4 months old, and it makes me so happy when she picks up her books and insists that I read to her.
Not only is it the best time that we spend together, it helps us bond together while helping her language development. While some parents feel that books should be put on hold till a child is ready for school, it is not true. Reading to infants and toddlers has immense benefits, and children who are exposed to reading earlier have been known to have social and language advantages over their peers.
When can I start reading to my child?
Well, as soon as you get pregnant, you can start reading to your baby. Do not laugh it off, babies whose mothers sing and read to them while they are still in the womb learn to recognise sounds and rhythm of language early on. After the birth of the baby, whenever you feel ready, you can start reading to your child. Read to your infant a few minutes everyday, and slowly build up the time.
How can I start reading to my baby?
Because there are so many benefits of reading to babies and toddlers, a lot of us parents want to start early but wonder how. Now, that’s not really important, because you really don’t need a plan for this, However, here are some first-hand tips that may help you get started-
- If you are an early starter, hold your baby close in your lap, and read and talk and sing to her by making sounds. Your baby and you will have undivided attention to each other, and your lap will make the baby feel safe and loved
- You will gradually notice your baby taking interest in shapes, colours, mirrors and textures. At this stage, you can choose brightly coloured and richly textured books for your baby. She will love to touch and feel the books, so they also make a good choice
- By the time a baby turns one year, she would be trying to be independent and would want to do everything on her own. Let her choose the books she wants to read, ask for her help when turning the pages, and inviting participation
- Gradually, your child will be keen to finish a line or tell you what the picture is about, let them do so, and pause to let your child finish
- And yes, they will be putting everything in their mouth, so choose board books, cardboard books and plastic books. My daughter mostly tore off any paperback books I gave her! More than looking at the pictures, she enjoyed the sounds of tearing paper
- When you read to your child, pause and ask questions, giving your child the time to answer. Read the books over and over again, and relate the illustrations and the stories to the child’s own experiences
- By the time your child is 3, she will take interest in longer stories, and may even make up her own. She would have a wider vocabulary and may also read to her dolls and stuffed-toys
10 Benefits of reading to infants and toddlers
You may wonder why you should read to a baby, after all, she really cannot understand anything! However, reading is an important form of stimulating your baby’s brain, which is developing at a rapid pace at this age. Reading aloud to your baby also gives you uninterrupted quality time with your child. And if you still have doubts, let me highlight the importance of reading to babies and toddlers as below –
1. A baby learns about communication when you read to her
When you read aloud to a baby, you modulate your voice expressing various emotions – this exposure lays a strong foundation for a child fostering social and emotional development.
2. Reading develops a child’s vocabulary
When you read to your baby, she listens to many, many words that you may not normally use in your pep-talk with her. Talking to a baby everyday is mostly made up of repetitive sounds and words, but reading something new exposes them to a wide vocabulary.
3. Reading exercises a baby’s brain
When you regularly read to a baby and ask her questions, she gradually starts to retain a lot in her memory and her brain activity increases. For a child’s language development, it is critical that these areas of brain are stimulated.
4. Reading boosts imagination and creativity in kids
Imagination helps children explore endless boundaries and grow their minds. Imagination and creativity are deemed as critical factors in a child’s overall development. Reading to your child sets a stage to picture everything on the book in imagination, and add a dash of creativity. Reading is the best way to stimulate imagination in young kids.
5. Improves concentration and focus
Children as it is have very short attention spans, and toddlers can barely make a moment without getting distracted. However, when you introduce your child to reading, after initial flustering, she will develop concentration skills and sit still for longer times. This helps immensely when the kids start going to school.
6. Reading builds listening skills in babies
We all know how important it is to listen before we speak! To help your child develop listening skills, there is no better way than reading to her. While a toddler will interrupt a lot initially, slowly they will develop the patience to listen without interrupting. Such a wonderful foundation to give to your child.
7. Babies get to know about the world
The more babies are exposed to reading and stories, the more they learn about the world and things around them. The more they know, the more they absorb, and we all do understand that at the end, we all strive for knowledge.
8. Children who are read develop empathy
The world surely lacks empathy today, and we can make sure that our children are sensitive not just to themselves, but to others by reading stories that can help them relate to emotions. Empathy is a very valuable skill that children can possess that encourages tolerance and acceptance to others.
9. Reading is fun and entertaining
In a world when parents are struggling to keep their children off TV and mobile screens, reading is one activity that entertains and benefits your child immensely without any side-effects. When children are exposed to the pleasures of reading early, they are likely to choose a book over another activity when bored. Bliss!
10. The bonding!
Cuddling up with your little one, making funny sounds together, clapping, singing, laughing and role-playing encourages a strong bond between the baby and whoever is reading to her. The coos and gagas and the giggles are all worth it!
When you start reading to a child early on, you are in the process of raising a reader when he or she grows up. Not only do they do better in school , they also lead more satisfying lives having gained a ton of knowledge being well-read. Books promote the development of many important life-skills like thinking, imagination, empathy, focus, and many more.
It is never too late to start. For babies, it is never too early to start reading to them.
What are you reading to your child currently?