Benefits of reading to your baby

By Sue Hill, Raising Literacy Australia

It is never too early to start reading with your baby. In the first three years of a child’s life, their brain grows by an amazing 85%. his is just one of the reasons why regular reading, talking, playing and singing with babies is so important for their development.

PBC Expo spoke with Sue Hill from Raising Literacy Australia to get an understanding of the benefits of reading to your baby…

The benefits of reading to young children are many. Story time with a loving parent or carer helps babies to feel secure and provides a great opportunity for bonding. Books are the perfect, interactive toy, and an investment in books for your baby is one that will support their growth and development well into the future. Every time they turn pages, point to pictures, lift a flap, or even chew on them, they add to their understanding of words and the world around them. Best of all, reading is a fun activity that you can enjoy every day, with the knowledge that you are helping your child to develop the necessary skills they need to read and write as they get older.

How often should you read to your baby? And for how long?

We encourage parents to read, talk, play and sing every day. Repeating positive experiences, such as regularly cuddling your baby and sharing a book with them, strengthens the connections in their brain and gives them the best start in life. However talking, playing and singing to your baby are just as important, so try to include a range of these fun and engaging activities throughout your day.

What time of day is best to read with babies?

Reading with your baby is an activity that can be done at any time of the day, however try to avoid introducing a story if your baby is tired, hungry or unsettled. Reading books at bed time is a great way to establish a night time routine but keep in mind some babies may take longer to settle into a sleep routine than others. Try reading throughout the course of the day and see how your baby responds – before a nap, during a feed or even in the bath! Every time you read with your baby you are helping them to understand language and building important connections in their brain that will help them to communicate with you.

What types of books are suitable for babies?

In Australia we are fortunate to have access to a wonderful range of children’s books. For young babies we recommend introducing board books which are made of durable coated cardboard. They withstand rigorous activities such as dribbling, chewing and throwing and are a great size for little hands to explore. Also look for small buggy books which have a handle or clip – perfect to take on outings in the pram or attach to a shopping trolley. Cloth books, books with flaps and plastic bath books are other great options for story time.

Tips for reading with your baby:

  • Get comfortable and turn off distractions, babies will love listening to your voice, so by switching off the TV, or moving to a quiet place this will make it easier for babies to connect with you
  • Follow your baby’s lead and if they get tired or restless, try again later. Babies have short attention spans so don’t worry if you don’t finish the whole book
  • Choose books that are bright, clear and have simple pictures. Up to the age of 6 months a baby’s vision is still developing so you may find they have a preference for black and white books or those with high contrast patterns and shapes
  • Sing, read and repeat! Read favourite stories and sing favourite songs over and over again. Repeated fun with books will strengthen language development and positive feelings about reading

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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