Reading to Your Baby

The very best time to start reading to your baby is on the day he or she is born.

The gentle rhythm of a simple children’s story will be soothing for your new little person who has, after all, had a stressful day.

The fact that a newborn baby is capable of responding to books sometimes surprises parents but the evidence that reading to babies is important for their development is absolutely rock-solid.

mum reading to baby

What Should I Read?

You can read anything to a newborn baby – the book you’re reading, the newspaper … anything at all.

Your baby will respond to the rhythm of the words and the sound of your voice, rather than the words themselves.

He’ll be comforted by your voice and may even be lulled to sleep as you read, particularly if you’ve read to him before he was born. 

OK, you can read anything you like but there are some lovely books for babies to chose from and they’re great fun to read.

If you're not sure where or how to start, I suggest you choose three books to begin with:

  • bed-time book you read every night. The book then becomes part of your child’s bed-time routine and will come to be a comforting signal that it’s time to go to sleep.

Newborn Read-Aloud Tips

The most important things to remember when reading to your baby are:

  • don’t read too quickly. Many parents make this mistake. Read more slowly than you think you should;
  • read with expression, paying attention to the rhythm of the text and to the repetition and rhyme often found in books for young children;
  • read often – at least every day for ten minutes, more often if you can;
  • hold your baby close as you read so he begins to associate reading and books with feelings of comfort, security and pleasure;

dad reading to baby

Reading to Older Babies

You may find that reading to your baby gets a bit tricky around the age of about five or six months. 

At this stage, many parents think reading to babies is a waste of time because their baby:

  • seems more interested in chewing or playing with the book than listening to the story;
  • gets restless and doesn’t seem interested in listening after the first few minutes;
  • doesn't understand what they're reading;

Pretty much all of us think this way but it's important to understand that this is perfectly normal behaviour and does not mean you should stop - or put off - reading to your baby.

By all means try to gently discourage too much chewing but do let your baby handle the books.

Here are six thing to try at this age:

  • choose short books for a while. As your baby gets older and gets used to sitting and listening to stories, you can gradually move on to longer books.

  • if the book isn't a very precious one, do let him play with it a bit as you read. As he gets older, he'll want to turn the pages as he's seen you do.

  • stick mainly to reading board books for a while. This means you can let your baby turn the pages and handle the book by himself, which is fun for him as well as being a great learning experience.
  • keep reading! Your baby is listening, even f it doesn't look like it.

Reading to Mobile Babies!

Once your baby can crawl and then walk, keeping books accessible is important:

  • try having board books and maybe some books you’ve found in charity shops scattered around the house for your baby to read whenever he likes. Choosing books like this means you can let him have free reign without worrying about the books getting damaged.

  • keep any special books on a high shelf to be brought down by mum or dad and read with supervision. This is a good way to protect these books and also teaches your child that some possessions need careful handling.

Something that worked really well in our house when my children were babies was having a book basket on the floor in the living room.

I'd change the books around every so often and the boys loved getting the books out on their own and sitting down to "read" them.

It really was very cute and I loved the fact that they were learning to love books.

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