The first teacher is you - reading to your baby

By Raising Literacy Australia, The Little Big Book Club

When the word education is used, many of us think about the formal years of school. But your child’s education begins years before their first day at school.

From the first moment you hold your newborn baby they begin to explore their world, with you as their guide and role model. It is during this time that you as a parent become the first and most important educator of your children.

Reading books to children is one of the easiest ways to help your little one learn about language, literacy and the world around them. It is also a beautiful way to bond with your children.

The benefits of reading to children are many. The human brain is most open to environmental influences in the first few years of life with 85% of brain development occurring between birth and the age of three. Sharing stories and songs with your baby is the most important things you can do as a parent to help their developing brain. As a baby absorbs new sights, textures, scents and sounds the connections in her brain that make learning possible multiply and become stronger.

Research has shown that children whose parents read to them when they are young learn to speak, read and write more easily. It is never too early to start reading to your baby.

Even though they may not understand the words that you read to them, they love hearing the sound of your voice and they learn that reading is important and fun. Most importantly, it is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby.

The beauty of reading picture and board books with children is the time to stop and cuddle, to share the beauty of a picture book, but also well written picture books use lots of rare words that we do not use in our day to day speak which supports their formal learning and the ability to read and write.

10 tips for reading with your baby

1. Snuggle up with your baby.When you hold your baby close and look at a book together, your baby feels safe and secure. Even though they may not understand the words, they love hearing the sound of your voice and being close to you.

2. Try and read with your baby every day. Find a time when they are happy and interested in what is happening around them. If they get tired or restless it is ok to stop. You don’t have to finish the book.

3. Babies like books that have high contrast, bright, clear and simple pictures. They enjoy books about things they are familiar with such as animals, food, toys and other babies! Some of our favourites are:

  • My First Shapes – black & white board book
  • Let’s Play – board book
  • Spot
  • Grug – buggy book
  • Where is the Green Sheep?

4. Board books are great for babies as they will want to grab the pages, put them in their mouth and throw them. This is ok, it’s how they learn.

5. If you are worried about babies damaging books, keep precious books on a higher bookshelf but make sure there are lots of sturdy board books in baskets and on low shelves that little ones can reach themselves.

6. When you are reading to your baby try to look at both the book and your baby. Point to the pictures and talk about the things your baby is looking at.

7. You don’t have to read the words that are written on the page, it’s ok to make up your own story.

8. Have fun and be silly. Try and make your voice as interesting as possible. Use different voices for the characters in the story, if there is an animal in the story make the sound the animal makes. All of this will help make reading fun and enjoyable for your baby.

9. Books make great gifts. Ask family and friends to give books as birthday or Christmas presents. They also make a great baby shower gift.

10. Visit your local library. You can attend story time sessions and borrow books to read together at home.

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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