by Elizabeth Stilwell
Early Childhood Specialist
There is an abundance of advice about the benefits of reading with babies, but what if your baby doesn’t respond…or reacts by crying? The first and best tip for sharing books with babies is to enjoy the time together. The next is, don’t give up! Research confirms that reading to babies and surrounding them with words, contributes to the development of language and their growing brains. An added bonus is that the emotional connection to this special, one to one time with you and a book, also lays the foundation for your baby to develop a life-long love of books and reading. All of this magic will happen, but only if the experience is enjoyable for both of you.
You may have already discovered that reading aloud to an infant is very different than reading to a preschooler. Here are some things to remember as you begin to make sharing books with your baby part of your family routine.
A Few Minutes at a Time is OK.
Don’t worry if you don’t finish the story. Tiny newborns might be a captive audience. In a few months though, your baby may be much more distracted with the big world around her. As your baby grows and develops, so will your style of sharing books.
Talk or Sing About the Pictures.
You don’t have to read the words to tell a story. The important thing is for your baby to experience sharing books as a pleasurable time with you. Singing a song about the animals or talking about the picture may be much more interesting to your baby than the words on the page
It’s OK if your baby wants to hold or chew the book.
That’s her way of getting knowledge about what a book is and how it works. Babies learn through all of their senses. She will soon learn that there is a story inside.
Make Books a Part of Your Daily Routine.
The more that books are woven into your baby’s everyday life, the more likely he will experience reading together as a familiar pleasure.
Select the right book.
Books for babies should be easy for them to hold and manipulate. Books in heavy cardboard format (board books), hold up to a baby’s use. Choose board books with simple engaging photos or illustrations, rhyming text or just a few words on each page. Remember that for babies, the book is a tool to engage your baby with your voice and your words.
Snuggle up…or not
If your baby is fussy when you are sharing a book, it may be that he just needs to move. Follow your baby’s cues. Try again when your baby is happily sitting in his bouncy seat or laying on his back kicking and stretching. Try adding books when your baby is already happy!
Let your baby choose the book
When your baby is on the move, have books on the floor for her to discover. When she finds one tell her about it. Soon she will be crawling over to a book and brining it to you to read!
Babies Belong at the Library!
As part of our county-wide initiative Babies Belong at the Library, babies receive their first library card at birth. If you enjoyed a home birth or adopted your baby, stop by your library to pick up your card, check out beautiful books for your baby and connect with other families!
Here are some of Family Reading Partnership’s favorite books for babies. See more on our list of Fifty Great Books for Baby’s First Year on our website www.familyreading.org
Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim
Snug by Carole Thompson
Flip, Flap, Fly by Phyllis Root
Baby Faces, a DK book
Peek-a-Boo by Roberta Grobel Intrater
Ten Little Fingers by Annie Kubler
Rah, Rah, Radishes! By April Pulley Sayre
Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
When it comes to sharing books with your baby, it’s never too early to start and the benefits last a lifetime!