It’s never too early to start reading bedtime stories to babies. A baby begins to develop from the moment they are born, learning more every day. This learning is enhanced when you begin to engage with your baby, so we have created a few fun and easy top tips to help maximise the positive effects of this. If you’ve been wondering how to read to your baby, try these out with your baby books and see which works best.
The Best Ways to Read to Your Baby
- Get comfortable
- Choose baby-friendly books
- Keep in reach
- Talk to your baby
- Establish a daily routine
- Read and repeat
- Start with a sentence
- Bring the story to life
When you’re learning how to read to your baby, it’s important that you find a cozy, warm and comfortable place. Somewhere familiar and comfortable will make your child feel safe and calm, which will build your baby’s confidence. A safe environment will make the reading experience more enjoyable for you and for the baby, and will also strengthen the bond between you.
When reading to your baby, the right book makes all the difference. Your child will respond well to books that have lots of bright colours and pictures, a book that is tactile and has lots of different textures, or a board book. A board book is made of sturdy, durable material, so your child can play with the book for hours and hours without any signs of wear.
Keep in Reach of Baby
When you are reading to your baby, make sure that the book is within their reach. The more that your child gets involved with the book, the better. Whether this is touching the characters in the book, pointing at colourful illustrations that catch their eye – any interaction is beneficial.
Talk to Your Baby
Whether you’re in the supermarket, walking around the park or cooking at home, chat away to your baby like you are having a conversation. Building up a child’s vocabulary from a young age will have a huge impact on their reading ability as they grow.
“No matter the language, the culture, the nuances of vocabulary, or the socioeconomic status, language is the element that helps develop the brain to its optimum potential,” – from The Power of Talk, by Dr. Dana Suskind
A daily routine is soothing for your baby. If you are introducing them to reading, try your best to do it at the same time each day so your baby grows to expect it. This routine is good for your child’s development and will benefit their reading as they get older.
Read and Repeat
Reading repetitive books is highly beneficial for you baby when you are beginning to read with them. Read your child a personalised nursery rhyme book, or a book that has a repetitive tone. This will strengthen language development as well as positive feelings towards books and reading.
Start With A Sentence
Take it slowly! Don’t feel like you should be reading whole books to your baby straight away. Even a couple of sentences a night will benefit your child more than no reading at all. Start off gently, and begin to up the quantity of reading every week, or alternatively, just read for as long as your child pays attention.
Bring the Story to Life
Make reading fun and exciting – because it is! Make sure your child associates reading with being a happy and enjoyable activity. Do this by exaggerating words, using silly voices, singing some lines, and just making it entertaining. A way of really bringing the story to life is to replace your character’s names with a family member’s or a pet’s. When you are reading to your baby, ask them questions about the pages in the book and encourage them to respond and make noises. For example, when reading a Farm Book, make animal noises and encourage them to repeat them.
When Should I Start Reading to My Baby?
Recent research on reading to babies has shown that in middle class families, only 60% of parents read to their children everyday, and in poorer families this number was much lower at 34%. Many parents think that their babies are too young to gain any benefits from regular reading, and do not read to them often or at all. In actual fact, reading to your baby at as young as six months old has been shown to have a significant impact on their language skills over the next four years, and forms a stronger vocabulary.
If you are wondering when to start reading to a baby, it’s never too early. Some parents even read to their child before they are born, to get them accustomed to their mother or father’s voice. Reading to babies exposes them to language from a very early age, and begins to build the neural networks children need for independent reading later in life. Moreover, there is a direct correlation with the frequency that a child engages with a book, and their future reading and writing skills.
The quality of the reading is equally as important as the quantity of books that are read to your child. Whether the parents engage with their child, ask them questions about the characters or point to the illustrations, for example, has greater benefits than simply reading the words off the page. Both quality and quantity of reading has been shown to correlate with positive development of a child’s vocabulary and early reading skills.
Research has shown that reading to your baby for at least 20 minutes every night correlates with higher chances of high school graduation and can actually increase their lifetime earnings by $500,000. Reading with your child strengthens the bond between parent and child, improves their confidence and their social skills. By reading to your baby, the biggest gift you are giving them is a love of books – something that has immeasurable benefits.
Still wondering when to read books to babies? Start now. Any exposure to language, varied vocabulary, rhyme and repetition is beneficial to your child and can have a huge impact on their reading and writing skills in the future. Take a look at our range of stories to find appropriate personalised baby books that your child will interact with and enjoy!
When approaching reading to your child, you should take into consideration their age and stage of development. Below are some general tips for each juncture in your young one’s life.
Birth to 1 Year
In the first few months of your baby’s life, as their senses start to develop, they will begin to respond to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic cues. Take advantage of this by holding them close, talking and singing to them, as well as choosing books with bright colours and patterns to encourage them to reach out and touch the pictures. As they approach their first birthday you can begin to point at images and name them.
At a year old, your child may take the initiative and choose a book by themselves. As they start to talk, allow them to drive their own interest, but steer them in the right direction with questions about the story such as “Who is that man? And what does he do?”
As your child approaches their second birthday, they may begin to fill in parts of their favourite story from memory alone. This repetition is extremely helpful in prompting them to recognise and understand the formation of the words on the page.
By two, your child should be making a mental connection between the words and the pictures in a good book. Push them along by relating the story to their own life, for example “You have one of those in the picture, don’t you? What do you do with it?” Also, be prepared to read the same story every single night at this point!
3 Years and Above
By this point, your child can turn the pages by themselves and perhaps even tell a familiar story to you as they go. They will begin to recognise numbers and letters – a perfect time for you to test out their 1-2-3s and A-B-Cs! Guide them towards stories that prepare them for the real world, with topics such as going to school and making friends.
What exactly should I teach my baby?
When you begin to read to your baby, we recommend that you try to focus on the quality time you are spending with your child and try to make the story as exciting and fun as possible. Try not to worry about the details, and simply ensure your baby is paying attention and enjoying themselves. Regularly reading to your child means that they will be exposed to language and different vocabulary; soon enough your baby will connect the sounds you make when you read and the words that you are reading.
The main thing to remember is to have fun, and make story time an exciting activity!
Ebooks and audiobooks
The only difference between reading to your baby from a real book and from an ebook is that your child won’t be able to touch, grab and interact with the book like they normally would. Normally, a good children’s book will have engaging, bright and colourful illustrations to keep their attention and excite them – this is another thing you will lose from reading an ebook aloud.
Some modern ebooks have fun gadgets that can make them more interesting, like noise buttons. However, research has shown that these can actually be distracting for your baby and are not as beneficial as traditional story books.
Audiobooks are great for listening to while travelling in a car, or for your baby to listen to if you are rushing around and don’t have much spare time, but still want your child to have their daily dose of reading. However, storytelling by a baby’s parents is much more beneficial to them.
We would generally recommend that you make sure you engage with your baby during or after reading. Whether this is during a traditional storybook, after an audiobook, or while your child is listening to you read an ebook. Chat to your child, ask them questions about the book, sing the story, add personal touches. Your child will benefit the most from engaging with you and being exposed in anyway to language and storytelling.