There are lots of great benefits in reading to your baby. For example, did you know that reading to your baby will help to stimulate her brain and also aid brain development?
Book reading is a wonderful way to bond with your baby, too. Never underestimate the benefits of reading; it is a worthy pastime for people of all ages.
Keep reading to find out what the scientists say about reading books to babies.
Reading to your baby is great for bonding
Snuggling up together and sharing a book is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby. Life with a baby can feel hectic at times, especially if you like to be out and about. Prioritizing book reading gives you both a patch of quiet time for bonding during the day.
You could enjoy books together right before bed or carve out time to read earlier in the day. It’s totally up to you, there’s no wrong time to enjoy stories.
Find somewhere quiet, away from other distractions, and get comfy. Hold the book so your baby can see the pictures, and point out things you see on the pages.
Don’t worry if you’re not great at reading aloud; you’re not being graded on your performance. Your baby will love listening to the sound of your voice and hearing all the new words.
Reading promotes bonding because you cuddle together and touch promotes bonding. Away from other distractions, your baby will be able to focus on your voice and feel safe in your company.
As your baby grows older, he will start to point at the pictures and repeat sounds back to you. These interactions will further secure your bond and encourage your baby’s language and early child development.
Reading promotes brain development
Reading to your baby encourages brain development. Infants benefit from time spent listening to stories. The more words your baby hears each day, the more opportunity he has to develop language skills. Early language exposure will benefit your baby for years to come.
Reading books increases the number of words your baby hears each day and this is great for language processing skills. The more words your baby hears, the more he can begin to understand, and the more words he will learn to say.
Reading gives you something to say
Some parents feel silly talking to young babies. They aren’t sure what to say and so chatting to their baby doesn’t come naturally. Chatting to your baby throughout the day, however, is important for your baby’s cognitive development. You can simply talk through what you’re doing, point out things in the home or chat about your day. While you’re working on these skills, reading can help.
Reading stories gives you something to say to your baby. The pictures in the books give you something to talk about, and the stories themselves are great to read aloud. Carving out time in your day to read guarantees some focused language skills development time for your baby.
When should you start reading to your baby?
You should start reading to your baby right now. Reading to your baby offers so many benefits that the sooner you start, the better. Your baby will benefit from a daily reading ritual and these benefits will last long into the future.
Make reading aloud part of your daily routine. The sooner you start, the sooner this beneficial habit will become ingrained in your daily life. Both you and your baby will benefit from time spent sharing books together.
How to read to your baby – reading tips
If you’ve never read aloud to a baby before, you might be self-conscious at first. There’s really no need to be. Reading to your baby is a stress-free way to stimulate his brain.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Find a quiet place
You don’t need a dedicated reading nook, but it’s a good idea to find somewhere quiet before you start reading. Turn off the television and find somewhere comfy to sit. As your baby grows up, he will love climbing up on your knee with his favorite book. It’s never too early to introduce these rituals.
2. Choose a book to read
You might have a selection of children’s books already. If not, pop down to your local library where you can borrow some, free of charge.
Short books with lots of attention-grabbing pictures are perfect for younger babies. You can read picture books, nursery rhymes or books featuring familiar objects. As your baby grows, you can introduce books featuring different characters and more complex plots.
Board books are ideal because your baby won’t be able to destroy them so easily. If you are tired of reading the same book over and over again, invest in some new books. Ask friends and families to gift your baby books for Christmas and birthdays.
3. Read and talk
Read the story to your baby. Be sure to chat through the pictures you see. Point out animals, colors, and common objects. This will help build your baby’s vocabulary. As your baby grows into a toddler, he will begin to repeat the words back to you.
4. Have a conversation
If your baby interrupts you and starts to babble, be sure to talk back to him. Each opportunity to chat with your baby, even when it’s just babbling and making sounds, encourages social development. Repeat your baby’s chatter back to him, you’ll soon find yourself deep in a nonsense chat.
5. Keep it short
Your baby will most likely get bored if you read for too long. Be sure to follow your baby’s cues and stop if he seems to be getting bored with reading. This might be frustrating for you, especially when your toddler keeps switching books halfway through, but following your child’s lead will help him enjoy the activity more.
When to read to your baby
Some people choose to read books as part of their bedtime routine. This helps your baby know that sleep is coming and might help him wind down after a busy day. However, if bedtime already feels like a race to the finish line, you might prefer to have reading time during the day instead.
Books are a great way to entertain a baby so you could pack one of your baby’s favorite books in your diaper bag. A fussy or bored baby can easily be entertained with a story in a cafe or on a car journey.
Reading is such a great bonding activity, you might want to suggest other family members read to your baby, too. Grandparents will love reading aloud to their grandbabies, and older siblings feel very grown-up when they get to be in charge of bedtime stories.
Should you read to a newborn?
Absolutely. Your baby will love listening to you read. Newborns are soothed by the sound of a parent’s voice; it’s probably one of their favorite sounds in the world. The more they hear it, the better. Your newborn baby might not understand the words you say, but he will enjoy the pattern and sounds of your speech.
Benefits of reading to the unborn baby in the womb
Your developing baby can hear sounds from the outside world. When born, your baby will be able to recognize your voice and will turn towards it. Isn’t that amazing?
Reading to your baby in the womb provides plenty of opportunities for your baby to hear your voice. You don’t need to read picture books or simple stories; you could even read aloud from your current fiction choice or your pregnancy week-by-week book.
Some dads-to-be like reading to their unborn babies. After all, they want the baby to recognize their voices, too. Simply get comfy and let the dad-to-be read aloud to your bump. It might feel silly talking to a bump, but rest assured your baby can hear voices from around 10 weeks before birth.
For other bonding ideas to help you on your parenting journey, take a look at Bonding with your unborn baby – 12 tips.
Reading to your toddler
There’s no need to stop reading aloud when your kid grows up. Toddlers and older children enjoy hearing stories, too. The language and vocabulary benefits of reading continue long into life, so please do continue reading to your child.
Look at Reading To Your Kids Impacts Brain Function, Study Finds for more information.
Reading to toddlers increases the number of words they hear each day. It also increases the variety of words they hear in their early years. Every exposure to new words is good for your children’s understanding and vocabulary development. The more they hear, the more they understand.
Reading together is a great way to encourage your toddler to talk.
For more ideas about how to encourage your toddler’s speech development, look at Toddler Talking – 11 Tips To Encourage A Toddler’s Chatterbox!
Reading to babies research
There are plenty of research studies and articles promoting the benefits of reading to babies. Research shows that reading to your baby encourages brain development.
Here are some of the scientifically proven benefits of reading books to babies:
Reading improves language skills
A 2006 study published in Child Development found that reading to babies and toddlers improved language and vocabulary outcomes in toddlerhood. Children who were read to regularly by their mothers were found to have better language and vocabulary skills, even months down the line.
Reading promotes early literacy skills
Children from low-income homes are more likely to show delays in language and literacy skills. Providing these homes with storybooks and guides on how to share them with children has resulted in improved language and literacy and early reading skills for these children.
Many countries choose to distribute books to younger children as a way of reducing inequality and promoting school readiness.
Reading promotes brain development
A 2017 study published in PLoS One used MRI technology to explore brain activity during a mother-daughter reading activity.
The researchers found that listening to stories can provide a brain boost in the cerebellum to promote literacy development and synergy between caregiver and child during story sharing. The cerebellum goes through rapid growth and development during early childhood and is known to play a role in cognitive function and learning.
Reading builds vocabulary
Children in low-income homes are exposed to fewer words than their advantaged counterparts. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that parents who read one picture book to their children each day exposed their children to an estimated 78,000 words per year.
In the five years before kindergarten, children from literacy-rich homes hear a cumulative 1.4 million more words than children who are never read to. The more words your child hears, the better your child’s vocabulary will be.
Give them a head start by reading to them each day.
Reading promotes bonding
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics studied a parent-reading program in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Two-thirds of participants reported that reading to their baby in the NICU helped them feel closer to their baby. 86% of respondents enjoyed reading to their babies.
The reading program was found to promote bonding, with parents reporting increased intimacy with their baby and a sense of normalcy. Parents who took part in the study were twice as likely to read to their babies months later.