“Have you started reading with her yet?”
I nearly fell off my chair when she asked me that! I was visiting my local Children’s Centre with my baby who was just THREE WEEKS OLD!
But now, I am all for it! There is tonnes of evidence that reading with a baby is hugely beneficial – it encourages them to interact with the world (especially those touchy-feely ones, or the lift-the-flap ones). It also teaches them about communication, introduces them to the art of storytelling and explanation, and exposes them to new words. It helps them to understand that words have meaning (i.e. when you say ‘lion’, you mean the yellow animal with a fuzzy mane!)
Top Tips for Reading With Your Baby
- Use board books (yes I know it’s probably a given but I thought we’d start with the basics and work up!). It’s important for the babies to be able to hold the books and explore them without you worrying that they’re going to rip the paper pages
- As you get to the end of each page, put your thumb between the following pages. This pushes the page you’re currently reading forward, allowing the baby to grab hold of it and turn the page. It’s surprising how quickly they can learn to do this – mine were only about four months old!
- As you read the text, point directly to the picture that is being talked about. So if the ladybird is talking, have your finger resting on the picture of the ladybird
- Make up actions! This is the key to helping babies enjoy books. You should be aiming for an action for every page. Here are a few to get you started:
- If there’s anything falling over, or thunder, or banging, we SLAM our hands onto the page
- If there’s any bouncing (e.g. rabbits, frogs, car journeys), I jiggle her up and down on my knee
- If there’s anything high up or tall, I slowly extend my arm, lifting the book above our heads (this is also great for helping them develop the ability to follow moving objects)
- If there’s any wind or blowing up of balloons, I blow gently in her face
- All animals have animal noises. Noises are easier to say than words so at 20 months, my daughter can identify lots of animals but a frog is a ‘bibbet’ (ribbit), and an owl is a ‘doo doooo’ (twit twoo).
- Animal noises WITH actions are even better! Going for a two-pronged attack helps it sink in even better! Here are a few of ours:
- Bee = tickle tummy saying buzz
- Crocodile = gently ‘snap’ your hand all over her (this also works for a crab)
- Rabbits = bounce up and down saying ‘bounce bounce’
- Butterflies = open and close the book saying ‘flap flap’
- Be repetitive. Do the same actions with the same voice intonation at the
point each and every time you read it
- Read the book again and again if that’s what they want. It’s not unheard of for us to read the same book 4 or 5 times in a row.
- By the time they’re six months old, they’re more than capable of choosing their own book. I get out a selection of 5 books and spread them out on the floor next to where we are sitting. Baby can then select a book. This gives them a sense of ownership and independence, and you’ll soon get to find out what their favourite books are.
- Minimise distractions. Turn the music and TV off because extra noises can be confusing for the baby. It can also make it difficult for them to concentrate on what you’re saying and doing. Minimise your own distractions too by turning your phone off (or just putting it on the side) so that you’re not tempted to check it. If it looks like you’re more interested in something else rather than reading the book, then you’re teaching baby that books are boring
Now you know WHAT to do, you’ll need a few good books so you can get trying it out. Check out my favourite five books for babies (age 0-18mth!)