Start reading with your child from the first week he joins you, and you both will reap the rewards for years to come. If you are new to reading with an infant, you will have a slightly different set of circumstances than if you were reading with an older child. What we have included here just for you is a start. If you have questions, feel free to contact us.
"You may wonder about the benefits of reading with your baby. An infant will not understand everything you are doing or why, but you would not wait until your child could understand what you were saying before you started speaking to him or her, right? You would not bypass lullabies until your baby could carry a tune, or wait until he could shake a rattle before you offered him a toy." ~ kidshealth.org
Choose books with covers that your baby will enjoy. You CAN judge a book by its cover – especially if you are only a few months old. Books with bold, colorful colors, or black and white covers, are irresistible to babies’ newly developing eyesight and interests. Spend a few minutes with your baby looking at the cover of a book and identifying what you see (colors, shapes, words). Then, pick another one, and repeat.
Is your child at the "Oops, I dropped it!" stage? Consider attachable "stroller books". These small board books have basic images and bright colors to hold your baby’s attention, as well as a strap to hook onto a car seat or stroller. Your little one can enjoy the books, drop them, and be able to reach the books again and again. Priddy Books makes their books for “first words, speaking skills, and hand-eye coordination.”
Is your baby beginning to crawl? Set a soft, colorful book a few feet in front of your child. This is a great motivator and reinforces the idea that books are an integral part of daily life.
Expose your little one to as many words as possible FROM BIRTH by talking, pointing out details of the world, and reading books OF ALL KINDS. Remember, children who have never heard certain words, seen those words, or come into context with them, can have difficulty knowing what those words mean (or how to spell them) once they begin school, and new words and concepts are presented in books and lessons everyday.
Read the words you come across everyday aloud to your baby. Words you find in your daily life provide a natural springboard for early reading. Is there a sign you pass everyday, or words at your child’s eye level? Read them aloud. Do you have words written on art or on picture frames in your child’s room? Is your little one wearing a shirt with words? Point to those words and sound them out slowly. It will not be long before your child can repeat familiar words back to you.
Can you recite a favorite nursery rhyme? If so, someone did you a favor. According to the National Institute for Literacy (Jan. 09) the words in rhymes become part of a child’s early speaking vocabulary because of their repetition. Words that children use in their speaking vocabulary later become part of their reading vocabulary at a more rapid pace. Rhymes also provide an introduction to rhythm and contain words/contexts caregivers do not typically use with little ones (for example, “fetch” and “tumbling” from Jack and Jill). In addition, concepts such as counting, time, measurement, position, and weather are found in many traditional rhymes. There are many wonderful nursery rhyme treasuries available at your local library or bookstore. Pick one up today.
Do you have a shower, birthday or child-centered event to attend? Many bookstores sell plush book character toys. You might pick up the book Corduroy and a little stuffed Corduroy bear to go with it. Adding to (or starting) a young library not only celebrates the child, but also fosters an early love of reading and exposure to books. Add a personal note inside the book to make it even more special.
Is your energetic infant fond of peek-a-boo, but less fond of sitting still for a book? Try playing peek-a-boo with a character or object IN the book. A thick board book with large colorful pictures lends itself easily to this game. While your child is looking for the “snowman” or “duck,” she is also working on hand-eye coordination, becoming comfortable with turning pages, scanning, building memory -- and playing!
Inscribe your child’s favorite books with a special note and the date. As your little one grows and you make room for new books, many special titles will be difficult to part with. An inscription, anecdote, or a picture on the inside cover turns those stories into special keepsakes that can be kept long after your little one has outgrown their early picture books.
As you discover new authors/books for your child’s library, add titles to an online wish list at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or a local bookstore. Share the link with family/friends before birthdays and holidays to build your little one’s library, to keep a log of books to purchase, and to avoid duplicate titles.
Fans’ infants are loving Touch-Me textured baby flash cards from One Step Ahead. These soft, multi-fabric cards are printed with words matching their textured and manipulatable pictures. The cards “stimulate tactile discovery, and encourage fine motor skills” and give infants exposure to text. Some have tags, some make sounds, and they are on a ring that opens so individual cards can be removed, and the ring can be mounted on a car seat or stroller, or just grasped. onestepahead.com and amazon.com
"By reading with infants, parents can help their children develop an understanding about print at an early age as infants learn to make connections between words and meaning. By engaging children at an early age in reading and allowing children to observe those around them in reading activities, parents can help foster a lifelong passion for reading that leads to benefits in all areas of development as children grow older."
~ National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1997). Helping Children Learn About Reading. (Online). http://npin.org/library/texts/home/learnabo.html [1997, September 25].
Reading to children is one of the best ways to promote positive attitudes toward reading and to give children the sounds and words of literacy and reading. BEGINNING AT BIRTH, all children should be read to with regularity and enthusiasm.
~Southern Early Childhood Association (2002) Early Literacy and Beginning to Read: A Position Statement of the Southern Early Childhood Association. Southern Early Childhood Association: Dimensions of Early Childhood, 30(4), 28-31.