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
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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