It is never too early to start reading to a child. This activity helps with the development of reading skills and language. Reading to children at a young age also helps them learn to enjoy books and to want to read.
Newborns may not be able to focus on the pictures in a book, but they love to hear the sound of their parents’ voices. During the first few months of life, your baby will have little understanding of what you are reading, but will just be thrilled that you are doing so. Since free time can be scarce with a new baby, some parents choose to read to their babies from the newspaper or their own books.
By 1 month to 2 months of age, many infants start to show an interest in books and love to look at picture books, especially of other babies. Routines, such as those at bedtime, become important between 4 months and 6 months of age. Many parents make reading a story part of their nighttime ritual, choosing one of many popular books with soothing “good night” messages.
Older infants, aged 6 months to 12 months, reach for books, put them in their mouths and even chew on them. Sturdy board books and washable cloth books are made to last, even when frequently touched, drooled on or chewed. Infants are developing their senses of sight, sound and touch, and enjoy books with bright colors, pictures of familiar things like babies and animals, and things to touch.
Read books with your child every day. Young children have short attention spans, so try reading for short periods, several times each day. Choose stories that you like, and share your enthusiasm about the book with your child. Most children, even infants, have favorite books; be prepared to read them over and over again. Don’t forget to introduce new books, too; ask your local librarian for suggestions. If your child has a favorite book, look for others by the same author.
When you look at lists of recommended books for children, keep in mind that every child (like each of us) is different, so books that appeal to one child may not appeal to another. Similarly, a child may not be interested in a certain book today, but may love it a few days, weeks or months from now. You’ll quickly notice that recommendations from reading experts differ — one expert may recommend a particular book for babies from 6 months to 12 months; another may recommend the same book for older children. The only recommendation that truly matters is the one from your child!