Someone once asked me how old my children were when I started reading to them. Honestly, it was not like I flipped a switch and then pulled out a book. I read to them as soon as they could open their eyes. I remember my son being on my lap and barely able to hold his head up as I read him a soft “baby book” with huge, colorful shapes and pictures. He sat there enthralled, gazing at the colors with wide eyes. Sometimes he would lunge forward to touch the colors. He was barely three months old.
When I gave birth to my daughter two years later, I would sit on my large blue chair with my son on one leg and my daughter nestled on my arm on my other leg. My son would turn the pages and I would read to both of them. I treasured our special time together, and my kids absolutely loved it. Even though my kids are in their twenties now, I still have the “reading chair” and just sitting in it evokes the sweetest of memories for me. But, perhaps the best part of this bonding ritual was that both my children grew to love reading at a very early age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is actively urging pediatricians to tell parents to read to their child from infancy. Reading aloud helps to promote language skills – vocabulary, speech, and later reading comprehension, literacy and overall intelligence. The AAP suggests that pediatricians extol the virtues of reading to children at each “well child” visit. Reading to your child is right up there with proper nutrition and vaccinations. Yup – according to science, reading aloud to kids is good for them.
Where to get books
You don’t need to own a large library to read to your child. Kids love repetition and will ask to hear the same story over and over again. (How many times did I read Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman?!!!). But if you just can’t pick up that same book again, head to your local library where the children’s section is sure to bring out your inner child. As your baby gets older, make reading interactive – have him point to the truck when you say the word. Then have him repeat the word or say it with you. Watch as his vocabulary begins to grow. You can practically “see” the connections being made.
Another place to acquire books for a home library is at second hand stores or even recycling stations. The “dump” in the town where I raised my kids has a book shed where you can drop off or pick up used books for free. And don’t forget, garage or yard sales are great places to get books for nickels. Having a mini-library at home has been shown to help children get off on the right academic foot.
When your little one is a toddler, check out library story hours for parents or caregivers and children. It may soon become the highlight of your week.
It is never too early to start reading to your baby or too late to start reading to your child. Not only will reading aloud help to boost language skills from an early age, but it will promote bonding and closeness between you and your child. Who knows what world a book may open up to you and your baby?
So, grab a book, snuggle up and start reading. You’ll never regret it.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.