Reading with your baby is all about enjoying a snuggly good time together. You are both creating a wonderful routine that can last the rest of your baby’s childhood, and introducing them to the world via books. Even with very young babies, listening to your voice and having that bonding experience with you will create a positive association with books and reading.
While I recommend reading all picture books with children very slowly (go over all the artwork and talk about the story!), it’s especially important with babies. Their eyesight is still developing during their first year, so going slowly and repeating things gives them a chance to study the pictures and form word associations. Older babies may have favorite books that they want to read multiple times in a row; go for it! It can be tedious for grown-ups, but it’s fantastic for little ones to learn language and stories.
Babies use all their senses to learn about the world, and books are no exception. Incorporate their sense of touch into the experience. With very little babies, you can take their hand and trace the outlines of shapes and pictures, or run their fingers over any textured parts of the book. When they’re ready to turn the pages themselves or lift the flaps, let them do it to their heart’s content. Ask them to point to colors, animals, or things they know on the page. Make the sounds of the animals and vehicles you see, and encourage your baby to do so, too. Listen to your baby vocalize about the book. Count the objects on a page, and have them point as you go, or hold their hand to count along. Anything that makes the experience more interactive will entertain busy babies and increase what they’re learning.
We all know that once babies get moving, they can have an astonishing amount of energy. Sometimes your baby will be too wiggly to sit with a book, and that’s okay! Again, reading with your kiddo is about creating a positive association with books and spending a happy time together – if they’re not enjoying it, please do not try to force it. You may have long stretches of time where they’ll only enjoy books at bedtime, when they’re eating, or even when they’re in the bathtub (perhaps not with borrowed library books!). It’s important to keep trying, and to have books available, even if you’re only getting in snippets of a story at a time. You’ll have days where they’re ready for longer reading sessions, and those days will increase in frequency as they grow.
It’s never too early or too late to start reading with children; you’ll be building their vocabulary, reasoning skills, and social/emotional intelligence. You’ll be creating memories, a bond with you, and a lifelong love of books for your child.
Hope to see you all again soon at Baby Storytime!
Kathryn | South Hill Library