By: Casey Parr, Community Outreach and Marketing Specialist, Penfield Children’s Center
Research says that reading aloud to a baby is the most important thing to help them prepare for reading and learning. Reading will help develop language skills, allow caregivers and babies to bond, and teach new concepts. Many times, the first introductions of numbers, animals, colors, and shapes happen through books. It can be challenging to try to capture a baby’s attention for a full story, but here are some ways to connect with a baby through reading aloud.
Relate what is happening in the book to the baby. Point out that the character in the book has the same hairstyle or color of shirt to make the story relatable. If there is a cow in the story, ask them what the cow says. Try to get your baby to interact with the story.
Read expressively. Use voices for different characters, sound out or stretch out words, sing along to the story, and express the characters emotions. This helps your baby develop social and emotional skills and maintain interest in listening.
Choose books with fun sounds. Babies enjoy books that have rhymes, rhythm, and repetition. This helps them learn the structure of the book and to sound out new words that they hear multiple times.
Repetition works! If your baby seems to react really well to a certain book, feel free to read it repeatedly. Babies love repetition. Try to read the book with the same inflection or tone of voice so baby can learn what to expect.
Try textured books. Pages can be crinkly, soft, scratchy, vinyl, or hard (called board books). Babies love books that have different things to touch and try so they can interact with them in a variety of ways. Hard pages help babies learn how to turn the page.
Go for color. Children are interested in books with pictures. Select options that are simple, high-contrast, colorful, and interesting to look at so baby has something to focus on.
Change your strategy as the child ages. With each month, a baby develops new skills. This means that the best way to keep them engaged will need to evolve too. Change things up, try different types of books, and new strategies to see what interests the child most.
Be patient. When your baby gets frustrated, stay calm and keep trying. Do not feel pressure to finish the story every time; focus on pages baby likes the most. Sometimes it takes many attempts to have a successful read aloud time with a baby. If the book does not go well, take a breath and try again tomorrow.
As you continue to read with your baby, they will start to mimic the sounds you are saying and eventually develop words. They will reach for the pages and learn how books work so they can love reading. Eventually children will even remember stories and point to certain books to request them. Most of all, they will love this time where they get to cuddle and receive one-on-one attention. Make sure when your child is able to crawl, they have age-appropriate books available to them so they can choose to look at them on their own as well. Starting with just fifteen minutes of reading aloud each day to your baby develops a routine that sets them up for a lifetime of reading.
What was your favorite book as a child? Have you tried reading it to your baby?