Research-Based Parent Education and Support

How To Read To Your Baby

Posted by mlkropp on Nov 20, 2015 in Language Development, Recent | 0 comments

How To Read To Your Baby

Experts in both research and practice in the field of child development agree that reading aloud to babies is an important and helpful activity in which to participate. Many new parents set goals of reading to their babies, perhaps even before they are born. “I read aloud passages from Anne of Green Gables to my newborn daughter,” a mother recently told me. Another mom confessed to reading her master’s level textbooks aloud to her unborn child in order to expose her growing baby to the rhythm of language and the sound of her voice.

These mothers have the right idea and know that their personal values of reading will be passed on to their children as they model positive reading behaviors and the love of literature and learning.

However, as the children grow beyond the captive newborn phase and progress to curious rollers, crawlers and toddlers, reading long passages intended for adults may no longer be feasible. Parents may wonder how to captivate their young children’s interest with books and many are at a loss as to how to keep a child on their lap long enough to read them a story.

Just exactly how does one read a book to a squirmy baby? What does reading aloud to a baby actually look like? To illustrate an ideal reading interaction between a parent and baby, watch this short, 30 second video clip.

Notice that the father in this delightful video is responding to his son’s cues. The baby laughs, and the father repeats the exchange.

The dad points to illustration of the frog, labels the animal and asks what it says.

We cannot see the text of the book in the clip, but presumably there is no print on the page that says, “What does the frog say?” Yet the dad repeats both the question and its answer many times.

It is difficult to say which participant in the exchange above is having more fun. Both father and son are clearly enjoying their interaction as evidenced by their pointing and shared attention to the book, their laughter and the words the dad is saying, including questions and answers.  

The book undoubtedly contains many more pictures and words than the dad in the video introduces to his son. He wisely tuned into what his son enjoyed and was interested in and made the most of that small opportunity. The other words and pictures might easily be incorporated into a future reading of the text. Each subsequent rereading may capture very different aspects of the illustration and print in the book.

How to read to a baby

  1. Choose an engaging book with simple, brightly colored illustrations in a durable format. Remember that your baby is as likely to eat the book as to read it. Keep the session short and sweet; there is no need to read every word or to look at each page cover to cover.
  2. Read the pictures more than the words. Point to illustrations and name what you see. Start with naming pictures and describing them. “That’s the moon. It’s yellow and big and round and it’s high up in the sky at night.”
  3. Play with language. Many books for young children have rhythm and rhyming that makes the book fun to read. Make up your own sounds, stories and games based on what you see in the book. Don’t be afraid to sound silly and experiment with using different tones of voice, perhaps even singing the words to a tune you make up as you go along. Your baby is not judging you!
  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Sometimes on word (or picture) can be read again and again. Other times simply one page or perhaps the whole book may be repeated over and over.
  5. Be responsive to your baby’s cues. If she points to an illustration, name it and talk about it. Use your baby’s interest as a launch point for further conversation and interaction. If she is done and wants to play with another toy or crawl around on the floor, do not force her to stay and read.

The most important thing to keep in mind when reading to your baby is that reading is meant to be an enjoyable activity.  Have fun!

Much appreciation to Amy and Matt for sharing their much treasured video!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!