Reading Tips for Parents of Babies

It's never too early to read to your baby. As soon as your baby is born, he or she starts learning. Just by talking to, playing with, and caring for your baby every day, you help your baby develop language skills necessary to become a reader. By reading with your baby, you foster a love of books and reading right from the start. The tips below offer some fun ways you can help your child become a happy and confident reader. Try a new tip each week. See what works best for your child.

Snuggle up with a book

When you hold your baby close and look at a book together, your baby will enjoy the snuggling and hearing your voice as well as the story. Feeling safe and secure with you while looking at a book builds your baby's confidence and love of reading.

Choose baby-friendly books

Books with bright and bold or high-contrast illustrations are easier for young babies to see, and will grab their attention. Books made of cloth or soft plastic (for the bathtub) or "board books" with sturdy cardboard pages are easier for a baby to handle.

Keep books where your baby can reach them

Make sure books are as easy to reach, hold, and look at as toys. Remember, a baby will do with a book what he does with everything else — put it in his mouth. And that's exactly what he's supposed to do, so you may only want to put chewable books within reach.

Talk with your baby — all day long

Describe the weather or which apples you are choosing at the grocery. Talk about the pictures in a book or things you see on a walk. Ask questions. By listening, your child learns words, ideas, and how language works.

Encourage your baby's coos, growls, and gurgles

They are your baby's way of communicating with you, and are important first steps toward speech. Encourage attempts to mimic you. The more your baby practices making sounds, the clearer they will become. Go ahead and moo, woof and honk!

Give baby a hand!

Encourage your baby to pick up crackers or peas, touch noses and toes, point to pictures and grab toys. The muscles in those little hands will grow strong, agile, and ready to turn pages.

Develop a daily routine (and make reading a part of it)

Routines can soothe a baby, and let a baby learn to predict what will happen next. The ability to predict is important when your child is older and is reading independently.

Sing, Read, Repeat

Read favorite stories and sing favorite songs over and over again. Repeated fun with books will strengthen language development and positive feelings about reading.

"Read" your baby

Pay attention to how your baby reacts to the book you are reading. Stop if your baby isn't enjoying the story and try another book or another time.

Posted by permission of Reading Rockets.


Start Reading to Your Child Early

What to do

From the time your child is born, make reading aloud to your child a part of your daily routine. Pick a quiet time, such as just before you put them to bed. This will give them a chance to rest between play and sleep. If you can, read with them in your lap or snuggled next to you so that they feel close and safe. As they get older, they may need to move around some as you read to them. If they get tired or restless, stop reading. Make reading aloud a quiet and comfortable time that your child looks forward to.

  • Try to read to your child everyday. At first, read for no more than a few minutes at a time, several times a day. As your child grows older, you should be able to tell if they want you to read for longer periods. Don’t be discouraged if you have to skip a day or don’t always keep to your schedule. Just get back to your daily routine as soon as you can. Most of all make sure that reading stays fun for both of you!
  • Be enthusiastic about reading. Read the story with expression. Make it more interesting by talking as the characters would talk, making sound effects and using facial expressions and gestures.
  • Give your baby sturdy board books to look at, touch and hold. Allow them to turn the pages, look through the holes or lift the flaps. As your child grows older, have books on shelves or in baskets that are at their level. Encourage them to look through the books, and talk about them. They may talk about the pictures and they may “pretend” to read a book that they have heard many times.
  • For a late toddler or early preschooler, use reading aloud to help them learn about books and print. As you read aloud, stop now and then and point to letters and words: then point to the pictures they stand for. Your child will begin to understand that the letters form words and that words name pictures. They will also start to learn that each letter has its own sound- one of the most important things your child can know when learning to read.
  • As you read, talk to your child. Encourage them to ask questions and to talk about the story. Ask them to predict what will come next. Point to things in books that they can relate to in their own life:”Look at the picture of the penguin. Do you remember the penguin we saw at the zoo?”
  • Reread favorite books. Your child will probably ask you to read favorite books over and over. Even though you may become tired of the same books, they will enjoy and continue to learn from hearing them read again and again.
  • Read “predictable” books to your child. Predictable books are books with words or actions that appear over and over. These books help children to predict or tell what happens next. As you read, encourage your child to listen for and say repeating words and phrases, such as names for colors, numbers, letters, animals, objects and daily life activities. Your child will learn the repeated words or phrase and have fun joining in with you each time they show up in the story. Pretty soon, they will join in before you tell them.
  • Buy a children’s dictionary- if possible, one that has pictures next to the words. Then start the “let’s look it up” habit.
  • Make writing materials such as crayons, pencils and paper available.
  • Visit the library often. Begin making weekly trips to the library when your child is very young. See that your child gets his own library card as soon as possible. Many libraries issue cards to children as soon as they can print their names.
  • Show your child that you read, too. When you take your child to the library, check out a book for yourself. Then set a good example by letting your child see you reading for yourself. Ask your child to get one of their books and sit with you as you read your book, magazine or newspaper. Don’t worry if you feel uncomfortable with your reading ability, look for family or adult reading programs in your community. Friends and relatives also can read to your child and volunteers are available in many communities to do the same.

Courtesy of:  U.S. Department of Education

Office of Communications and Outreach

Helping Your Preschool Child

Washington, D.C., 2005