Every parent’s best intention is to raise an engaged, curious, verbally proficient child (at least until he gets to the NO stage) and cuddling up in a chair with your little baby on your lap and opening up the pages of a book together may indeed become one of the highlights of your day.
If your heart swells every time you think of raising a child as smitten with Make Way for Ducklings as you were, you’ll be thrilled to know it’s easy to instill that same love of books in a child. You can read out loud to him starting from day one. Or, even sooner if you’d like; babies in the womb adore hearing your voice any chance they get.
But if you feel more comfortable reading to an actual baby than to your own belly, don’t worry--you certainly wouldn’t be the first.
Even though your baby won’t be able to follow along with the story until about six months, the experience is still wonderfully beneficial for an infant who will simply enjoy the rhythms of your voice, the physical closeness, and the time you’re spending together. So pick books that you enjoy reading out loud to start. In no time you’re going to have little choice in the matter, as you’re forced to tear through Snugglepuppy for the sixteenth consecutive time.
Did we happen to mention babies love repetition?
As you build your child’s library, start with board books. The sturdy pages can be easily turned by little fingers—and not so easily destroyed by them.
Ideally, look for stories with few words on each page and bold, simple illustrations. Explore a range of basic concepts like colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and animals. Even though the ideas are simple, this format helps deliver a complex understanding of expressions, emotions, and communication.
To make reading time especially engaging, try books with fun rhyming schemes, or act out different voices of the characters in the story. Don’t be afraid to get your silly on – babies love a silly mommy or daddy. You can also feel free to stop the book midway to ask a question (“Where’s the cow?”) or elaborate on an illustration (“I count eleven stars!”). The more interactive you make the experience, the more your baby is likely to, well, interact.
Soon you’ll realize that your child starts responding to the illustrations, showing more interest in a particular page, identifying pictures, or even anticipating the next word in a sequence. It’s exciting to witness this transition from baby to person—which is why you just might find that reading to your child even 15 minutes a day and engaging him with the written language, is just as rewarding for you too.