When should I start reading with my child?

Right from the get-go, so once your baby is here. That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests. Reading from birth on is a wonderful way to connect with your baby. You could even start earlier and get into the habit of reading a book aloud while you’re still pregnant. Your voice gets through to your baby in the womb in the third trimester. Reading aloud early on, is a win-win for both you and your child and helps to make book reading part of your regular routine. Plus, book reading is one of the best experiences you can give your child to nurture her language and brain. Reading as if you’re having a conversation with your child is excellent brain food, builds language, knowledge and memory. Have fun reading together :) .

Find more information about what and how to best read in my book Raising A Talker. Please let me know what your baby loves to read and I’ll add those books to my website. Please submit your favorites through the form on your right. Thank you.

How can I make my child a reader? 

Here are 4 simple ways.

  • Read regularly with the child from early on. And, read yourself a lot. Parents are young children’s best teachers since they love to copy you what you do.
  • Have a wide array of print materials at home that is accessible to the child.
  • Make paper and pencil available for the child, so she can scribble.
  • Going beyond reading: Going to libraries, praising the child’s reading, relating reading to the child’s own experiences, asking questions about what was read, … (Resource: J. Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook)

What should I keep in mind when reading with my child?

Generally, let your child’s interest guide you which books to read together. Young children learn best if they are interested in something. That said, the same book may be interesting to some youngsters, and not to others. If you find that your child is not interested in a book, put it aside and replace it by another one. Introduce it at some later point, and see if she’s interested then. There are certain books that are better for certain ages but you’ll find that many books work for wide age spans. If you find a book that your infant loves, keep reading it since this likely instills a love of reading and that’s what counts the most.

Some basics…

  • Very young infants prefer strong color contrasts: Black, white and red color contrasts are ideal since babies this age respond very well to such contrasts and bold colors.
  • Babies love to look at babies, especially their faces. Have some baby face books, and – even better – make your own face book of familiar faces in the child’s environment.
  • When reading with your very young infant before she can engage with the book herself, you can read just about anything. A magazine, fiction, poems, or whatever you feel like. It’s more about being together, hearing your voice, feeling your touch than reading per se. When your baby begins to grasp things, get cloth books to practice her fine-motor skills.
  • As your infant learns to recognize and understand first words, it’s best to choose books that have clear, bright illustrations with one color image per page. Why just one? As you label the object, the child can make the connection between the word and the object labeled more easily than when having multiple illustrations per page.
  • Include touch & feel books. Reading is all about enjoyable sensual experiences at this young age. This way the baby’s tactile senses get stimulated, as well. Include books with different textures, so the baby can differentiate them from each other. Some touch & feel books are better than others, and if you have a book where the textures aren’t great, use it as a regular reading book.
  • Include lift-the-flap books. Some time around 8 months, babies search for things they can no longer see. They have an idea that things don’t just disappear and will look for them. Lift-the-flap and peek-a-boo books are a great way to engage them now. They give them the chance to look for things that are no longer in sight and really ‘test’ their new insight while they also engage their fine-motor skills.
  • Let your baby explore the book – touching it, mouthing & chewing it, throwing it, … These are all important learning experiences for the baby. Avoid criticizing these behaviors since they are a natural way of exploring things. Choose safe, sturdy and non-toxic books.
  • Read as if you were having a conversation. That is called ‘dialogic reading’ (for more details see Raising a Talker, pp. 139, 189f). Read in a very animated style – both with your voice and your face. Exaggerate your facial expressions, use different voices for different characters, etc… It is important HOW you read, especially once children begin to understand.
  • Read books that pick up on children’s real life experiences. This gets them interested because it makes reading contextualized: It puts reading into a context that is relevant for the child and makes reading more meaningful and appealing.
  • Keep reading safe. Never leave your baby unattended with a book, and watch the baby closely if she’s handling the book herself, especially when she’s into eating and chewing it.
  • Between the ages of 2 and 3, children are beginning to attend to print. This is a good time to read books with a few, repetitive words where the child can learn to recognize first letters and short words. Pointing at the print helps the child to become aware that the print means something. That said, keep reading wordless picture books as well so you have a mix of both kinds of books.

The age ranges given here are approximate recommendations, at best. Many books can be read much longer, or introduced earlier depending on your child’s interest. Observe your child, and let him guide you. Repeating books over and over is perfectly fine. Your child will find new things to discover and learn from all the time. Also, introduce new words and concepts to advance his learning while reading the same book over and over.

View Books For Infants and First Word Learners >

View Books for Young Toddlers and More Advanced Word Learners >