October is National Book Month. It serves as a reminder that it is never too soon to start introducing books to your baby to broaden his vocabulary, spark her imagination, and support early reading.
Even infants (newborn to six months old) can benefit from hearing you read. Identify a time of day in which baby is alert and content. Try board books or fabric books in black and white or high-contrasting colors to your baby. Check out Black and White by Tana Hoban, or something similar. Keep your reading session short, as in no longer than five minutes. Wrap it up if baby gets fussy. You don’t want to make reading unpleasant or a chore for either of you.
As baby becomes more active and observant (six to eighteen months), find colorful books with simple illustrations. A classic you may recognize, Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Leonni, is a good place to start. Look for fabric books that have varying textures within the pages for baby to touch. Durable fabric books, such as Fluffy Chick by Roger Priddy, is a very quick read with high-contrasting colors, pages that rattle to grab baby’s attention, and has other textures inside for baby to feel. Again, pick a time of day in which baby is receptive and attentive.
Once baby reaches the toddler stage, it’s time to make reading a bit more exciting for both of you. Hopefully your baby is growing out of putting everything in his or her mouth and will be ready to help turn the pages. An interactive book, such as Bunny’s Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown, engages baby to make different noises at appropriate times. Look for books with flaps to lift or objects to move. Check out Hugs from iBaby or How Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud? by Jane Yolen. If you haven’t already, it’s time to introduce Mother Goose nursery rhymes and other stories that have repetitive sounds like Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet and Allan Ahlberg) or books by Sandra Boynton such as Moo, Baa, La La La. Also, be sure to introduce Dr. Seuss books. Read slowly and point to each word you are reading as you go along. If you are not a great reader, it’s okay! Your child loves the sound of your voice. Use funny voices to keep her attention.
A favorite for promoting early reading are the Richard Scarry books, such as Best Word Book Ever, which is filled with labeled pictures of everyday objects and actions. Save these for when your baby is older and can sit still for longer periods of time. Again, point to each word you are actually reading.
By three or four years old, baby is old enough to make his own choice as to whether to reach for a book, a toy, or a movie. Make sure books are easier to access than the TV remote. Make reading a routine yet special event: take baby to the library for a group storytime and let her pick out a few books to borrow. Help your baby develop a habit of reading by letting him see you reading regularly. If you need to pass the time, don’t pick up your smartphone to play the latest game; grab a book instead.
Give your baby books that match his interest. If he likes trucks, get him a book that features lots of trucks. Provide a special place for your young reader to escape to her books, like a corner with a special rug or chair and her own bookshelf. As your child enters school, find out what books are in the curriculum and read them so you can discuss them together. Consider continuing to read for fun with your child, and select books that are slightly above her reading level, as appropriate, to keep her challenged.
Not only will you train a great reader, but you will build wonderful memories that your child will remember well into adulthood.
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