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The First Time You Read to Your Baby

A guest blog from Dr. Robert Needlman, Reach Out and Read co-founder and U.S. pediatrician. 

The first book that you read out loud to your baby could be War and Peace. That's because you can start even before your baby is born. Babies in the womb seem to enjoy the sound of their mother's voice, and prefer that voice after they emerge into the world. Your baby will not care what the words are. You can read anything, from trash to classics. I'd recommend Shakespeare, because of the beautiful sound those words make. Or William Butler Yeats or Langston Hughes, if you are more modern. Whatever your baby hears, that's what she will love to hear when it is spoken in your voice.


Once your baby is in your arms, she can enjoy looking at books as well as hearing them. Find books with simple, colorful pictures. Add lots of cuddles, tickles, and happy sound effects. The purpose is, always, to enjoy. There is a strong connection in the brain between enjoying and learning. When babies enjoy books together with their parents, they grow up loving books because some of the love they feel for their parents crosses over to those first books, and then books in general.



Sometime around 6 months, when your baby begins to reach skillfully for interesting objects, choose some books with fun things to feel.Pat the Bunnyis the classic, but there are many others that are not quite so 1950s. Children learn through all of their senses: sound, sight, touch, movement, even smell. Some of us still love the smell of a book!


The wonderful thing about young babies is that they are changing all the time. So, there are many first times! There is the first time that you read to your baby in the womb; the first time that you read to your baby in your arms; the first time that you read to your baby who can now reach and touch the book; the first time that you read to your baby who can "read" back to you, by pointing and making sounds. What makes reading aloud especially delightful to babies is the response they get from the people who love them and read to them. Find books that you love, and your baby will love them too. And don't worry: there is no special technique for reading to babies. If you follow your heart and let joy be your guide, you will do it perfectly every time.


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Written by Reach Out and Read - Communications at 10:27



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