Babies learn more quickly during their first two years than they will at any other point in life. Their brains absorb and process information at an astonishing speed.
Read early and read often to foster a love of learning.
Reading aloud to your baby nurtures your parent-child relationship.
Emergent literacy encompasses all the skills your child needs to master before they can learn to read. These skills develop from birth through age five.
Reading together is an easy way to nurture your relationship and foster a love of learning. How exactly does reading aloud to your baby affect development? Keep reading to learn more.
When to start reading to my baby
It's never too early to start reading aloud to your baby! You can even start reading to your baby before birth.
Rhythm, flow, and tone of voice naturally differ between conversational speech and reading aloud. Nevertheless, babies and young children need to hear both types of speech as part of language development.
When parents read at least one book daily, their child will hear an average of 1.4 million more words before kindergarten than those who did not hear as many books. Children that enter kindergarten without having listened to as many words tend to struggle throughout their entire school career.
What should I read to my newborn?
Babies grow, develop, and learn so much over the first year of life. Reading together nurtures the bond between parent and child and helps associate books with pleasure. Frequent reading also sets your baby up for future academic success.
- Newborn–three months. What you read doesn't matter much. Choose what interests you — news, sports, or your favorite novel are all options. Classic picture books about family are also good choices. Your baby will pick up on the natural differences in your voice and tone.
- Three–six months. Once your baby is about three months old, pull out simple and colorful board books. You can build a positive relationship with books as your baby develops better head control and starts grasping objects.
- Six months and beyond. Babies use all of their senses to explore books. Beyond looking at pictures and listening to you read, it is normal for babies to put books in their mouths as part of the fun! Board book pages are also more manageable when your baby starts to turn the pages for themselves.
- Book Selection. There are thousands upon thousands of choices out there. Goodnight Moon and Pat the Bunny are classics for a reason — the stories are simple and engaging for little ones. Rhyming and touch-and-feel books are great ways to engage with your baby.
Benefits of reading aloud
Emergent literacy is a term that encompasses all the building blocks children need before learning to read and write. Skills develop starting at birth through the preschool years. Reading aloud enhances a child's emergent literacy skills and sets them on a path toward reading and writing success. The following skills develop simultaneously as your baby grows.
Reading aloud fosters overall language development. Receptive language skills develop first; these involve listening and comprehending. Expressive language is the ability to communicate with others — long before your baby speaks clear words, they gesture, coo, cry, and babble to express needs and desires.
Print awareness is the recognition that written words have meaning. For example, when you repeatedly read a favorite book, your baby understands there is a message on the page. Eventually, they want to decode that message (read) for themselves.
Phonological (sound) awareness
Phonological awareness encompasses the ability to identify and manipulate speech and language sounds. Your baby is introduced to these concepts through rhyming words and phrases.
Reading out loud fosters all components of emergent literacy. Babies who are read to early often score higher on language development as early as nine months of age!
Reading to babies: 5 tips for parents
Reading to your baby should be fun and does not need to be complicated.
- Read early. Read often.
- Keep books close. Make books part of your day by keeping a basket of books in every room.
- Routine. Make reading part of your daily routine. Bedtime is excellent, but so is feeding time or wake-up time — any time is a good time. Simple board books only take a few minutes to read!
- Repetition. Babies and young children notoriously want parents to read the same book over and over. While it may not seem fun for you, it is thrilling for your child. They truly enjoy knowing what to expect next in the story.
- Get silly. Use voices and facial expressions to really express what characters are feeling or saying. You may feel self-conscious, but your baby will love it!
Reading out loud to your baby every day is one of the best ways to foster a love of learning. The research is clear — babies whose parents read to them from an early age often perform better throughout their entire school career. Reading is also a great way to nurture your parent-child relationship. So snuggle up and read a good book today!
- The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Parental Reading to Infants Improves Language Score: A Rural Family Medicine Intervention.
- Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. When Children Are Not Read to at Home: The Million Word Gap.
- Healthychildren.org. Developmental Milestones of Early Literacy.
- SAGE Open. The Comprehensive Emergent Literacy Model: Early Literacy in Context.