Why should you read to your baby?

A woman holds a reading book for her baby
Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash

Reading to your baby during pregnancy and after the birth brings many positive benefits for their development. It also provides a positive time for you to connect with them emotionally.

Here are some of the reasons I encourage you to read regularly to your baby (and obviously older children as well!):

  • Reading and looking at books encourages pointing, touch, looking
  • Through reading, you are exposing your baby to lots of language. This encourages your baby to copy the sounds you are making and learn new words.
  • The sound of your voice is soothing to your baby and they will recognise your voice from before birth as well.
  • Reading and looking at books together creates a time for you to be 1-1 which is so important as this time promotes bonding and brings emotional connection as well.
  • When you read regularly in the early days, you are more likely to encourage your child to become an eager, confident reader as they get older.
  • When you are reading, the changes you make vocally when portraying different emotions and characters provide opportunities for your baby to be exposed to different feelings.

There is evidence (Journal of Developmental and Pediatrics, 2019) that when a care-giver reads one picture book a day to their baby, they will be exposed to around 78,000 words each year. Reading from books brings in language they may not necessarily hear in day-to-day communication and interaction.

Here are some tips for reading to/with your baby:

  • For young babies (0-3 months), explore the simple patterns on pages, shapes, letters, colours and pictures that they will, in time, come to recognise in everyday routines
  • Follow their lead. If your baby keeps reaching and wanting to hold the book, turn the pages don’t worry about this. Let them explore and learn what it is like to hold a book and move it around.
  • Start with bright colours and big pictures and then, as they get older, bring in more language and books with more text.
  • Repetitive reading is great. If your baby has a favourite, keep reading it! Obviously, we want to bring in new books as well, but repetition supports language development.
  • Stories with rhymes and repeated phrases can really catch your baby’s attention and help stimulate and develop their hearing.