As it happens, I’m quite fond of reading. I may forget that from time to time (I blame addictive TV) but my love affair with books always comes back around. I’m sure my parents are relieved that all their years of bedtime stories have paid off! Beyond adoring books into adulthood, there are many reasons why reading to your baby is important.
Perhaps I should start with the obvious…You’re using language skills right now to understand the words I’m weaving. Without them, this would be a jumble of characters like trying to recognise a foreign language. Reading is a skill we use every day as adults, and probably take for granted at times. So even though your new addition won’t understand at the beginning, the process of learning to read through childhood will stay with them for the rest of their life.
when to turn to that first page
Simply put, it is never too early or too late to start. From roughly 23 weeks, the soundtrack of mum’s heartbeat is enriched with sounds from outside the womb. At this stage, reading to your baby is more about hearing a familiar voice than the words that are said. Setting aside time to talk to your bump helps mums-to-be and doting dads create a bond and should be a relaxing experience. It’s also an excuse to make a cuppa, grab a blanket and curl up for a bit.
Don’t panic though if you’re reading this with a baby in your arms and no books to hand. The phrase better late than never holds a lot of truth here, so it’s time to hit the shelves. After all, this week celebrates both National Read a Book Day and National Buy a Book Day. What better time to settle down with a story of dragons or fairies!
bonding from the very beginning
I mentioned already that talking to your bump helps to form a bond and that still holds true once they’re born. As they should already recognise the sound of your voice, reading to them will hopefully be soothing. It’s also a chance for dads to have some newfound one-on-one time with their precious babe and develop those feelings of intimacy.
Among the everyday hubbub, it’s wonderful to treasure the quiet times when they want a cuddle and their favourite baby or toddler book. If you’re lucky, you may even entice them into bed early with the promise of an extra chapter! It certainly worked for my parents as I got into my pjs that much faster when Harry Potter was pulled off the shelf.
nurturing their motivation and elation
If you’ve ever seen a child struggle to sound out a word, you’ll know the look of elation when they get it right. That feeling of success keeps them motivated to learn and is a marvellous sight to behold. Before they’re old enough to read for themselves, a commitment on your behalf helps to increase their attention span (at least until they chew the book). Plus it develops their listening skills and the rhythm of your voice encourages them to move in response.
Filled with silly characters and fantastical stories, books also help to teach numbers, letters, shapes and more in a fun way. I can still picture Elmer the Patchwork Elephant in all his colourfulness! Moreover, they’re a great way to introduce your baby to an array of new vocabulary that will foster the development of their communication skills.
to independence and beyond
Storytelling is innately sociable, joining children and adults together in a world of imagination. It’s so much more than the words you say; you can express emotions, create sounds and make faces. All of this contributes to their understanding of the world around them and fosters their social development. Making it engaging also encourages them to look, point, touch and interact both physically and mentally, stimulating their thinking skills.
While little tots rely on you for stories when they’re young, they’ll eventually have more independence as they grow. Put any daunting thoughts aside and focus on this - reading to them from a young age helps to better prepare them for reading on their own. And that’s a skill which they will increasingly need as school age approaches. Not only will it benefit them in the classroom but the books get better as they get older so don’t stop reading when they can!
chapter by chapter
I’m repurposing ‘bit by bit’ for my own ends here because it really is a chapter at a time, or a page of pictures when they’re younger. Finding a moment to read with your baby every day really does help to enrich the world around them. The development will be gradual and likely at a different rate to their peers, but it will be oh-so beneficial.
Simply put, books are brilliant. They open up a world beyond the everyday, foster development and create moments for bonding. Take every opportunity you can to share a story with your baby and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading together even in their teenage years. In a world of technology, there’s a reason those paperbacks are still around!
Little Isaac reading a Christmas book