These days everyone knows the importance of reading to your baby early. Parents invest a lot of money to buy beautiful to educational books for their babies and somewhere down the lane within few months the books are torn or left unused in one corner of our house. And each time you look at the books you either feel:
- A little guilty or lost and wonder where it all went wrong
- A sense of urgency and want to reverse whatever has happened
- Or you simply want to prepare yourself to know the right way to read to your baby
Then this article is for you!
We all know the importance of inculcating reading habits in our kids, but how to achieve it?
I will be sharing few tips and strategies that I learned during my time as a teacher and they work beautifully for my baby. This article will help you get started with reading to your babies in a more conscious and effective manner.
For better understanding of why early and regular reading is important please read Proof of benefits of reading to children.
Things to keep in mind while/before reading the article
- Babies have a short span of attention as we all already know. So be patient
- Every baby/child is different but everyone loves to look at bright pictures or listen to stories so even if your toddler would rather be doing something else at the present moment don’t give up on reading to them.
- Getting them invested in loving to read books might be a slow journey for some parents, but you will definitely see results at the end of it. Don’t be disheartened.
- The results will vary for each baby/child. Some kids will end up being bibliophiles while others will see their kid’s behavior improving. All results can be achieved through conscious, consistent and planned reading.
5 tips to set you on the path to great reading
1. Start Early
This is the basic rule when it comes to start reading to your babies and getting them interested in books. I started reading to my baby when she was just 1.5 months old. And the book with which she started still remains her favorite. My friend started reading to her baby when the baby turned 9 months old and struggled with torn books. Another friend started much later and was struggling with disinterest. So I cannot stress upon the benefits of early reading. That doesn’t mean you will not find good results with starting late. Starting late just means a little more effort on part of the parent.
2. Tearing pages
Tearing up books, newspaper or even toilet roll papers is an amazing game for most of the babies and toddlers. It is impossible to leave a book with them and not expect them to chew or tear up the pages. I don’t know if my daughter is different or if it’s because she was introduced to books very early and hence her books are the exception to this tearing rule.
Invest in good durable books
Books are not cheap so take care of them; put them away to their designated spot as soon as the reading time is done unless your kid seems to have some control over their urges. My daughter who is 12 months old loves to sit all by herself and look at her books if she is in a good mood, otherwise I have to be careful to store them away on time.
Avoid buying torn or second hand books
Because it is inevitable that they will touch these books and put their fingers in their mouth. You don’t know where these books have been to. Also torn books encourage them to continue tearing the book and it can become a habit which might spread to other books too.
3. A set routine
Initially when I started out, I had a cue and a book reading routine set. I used to read to her whenever we sat in the balcony together early morning and after her night time bath. Slowly it spread to other times and we lost our routine and read books whenever we wanted. Now she decides when she wants to read. She picks up her books at-least twice a day and makes me read the same book multiple times till I lose consciousness.
Routines are very important for babies and toddlers. They are trying to make sense of the world and when they can anticipate events they feel more secure and confident to handle their world. If you are starting out or trying to get back on the path of reading daily to them, I suggest having a clear timetable as to when they can expect the books to be taken out. It could be immediately after breakfast or after bath time or after snacks in the evening. But keep the cue crystal clear in the beginning days to get them to form a habit.
If you want to understand more about Cue and Routine concept, please read the summary of the book “The Power of habit” by Charles Duhigg. The book is a beautiful read into human habits and how it works.
4. Mix and match
These days there are so many different types of books available for babies and toddlers in the market. There are flap books, touch and feel books, board books, question and answer books, interactive books and many more.
Don’t stick to one type of book
Don’t buy only educational books like the ones concentrating on alphabets or animal or color books. Though they are important they are not stimulating or interesting enough as first reads. If you are planning to invest freshly in baby books I suggest going for one strong flap style board book and one rhyming story board book. My first 2 books were “Where is baby’s belly button” by Karen Katz and “The going to bed book” by Sandra Boynton. I recommend them because they are:
- Very interactive – I taught my daughter parts of body with Karen’s book. Each time while reading the book I ask her questions from the book about where her eyes, mouth or hands are. It taught her to make connection to real world and understand the concept of names of her body parts. She also learnt the meaning behind the question word “Where”? And the added flap is a great joy to her.
- Learning good Habits – The Going to bed book used to be a great night time routine. It has such nice rhyming sentences and if you feel you have a good voice you can sing the book to your baby. Even if you don’t have a great voice, you can do actions along with reading and talk about the entire bedtime routine.
5. Consistency, Repetition and Questions
Reading to your baby should be fun for you and your baby. But often times it’s not that exciting. It could be due to a lot of reasons: “I can’t keep reading the same book again and again”, “it feels like a lot of work to remember to ask questions correctly or point to everything in the book” etc.
So I have a printable here for you that you could both print out and paste it behind your kid’s book or put it up on the wall in your reading area.
All about the planner
Reading books to a baby is a skill which we can fine tune or obtain through some planning. Opening a book and going through the book mindlessly and reading as per your mood are easy. But consciously repeating words from the book to the baby actually makes them fond of their books and also ensures mastery over the concept. Repetition also helps to improve their limited vocabulary.
How to USE the Planner?
You might feel it’s a lot of work. But once you sit down and set the timer you will see it will not take you more than 5 minutes to fill out the printable.
The planner is to just get you started to mindfully think about what you want to be reading to your baby.
In the planner you will see the below mentioned section. Each section needs to be filled up with what you want your reading to achieve. The planner will cover both fun and the intellectual aspect of your reading.
Words to learn
Look at the illustration and pick out the objects, animals or person which you want your baby to learn and understand and write it in the “words to Learn” block.
Actions associated with word
This block will have the gestures you will use to explain a word (for e.g.: Brush – you show brushing your teeth with hand gestures).
Sounds that the character makes
Write down the sounds that the characters and objects make,basically the sounds you want your baby to learn from that particular book.
As the heading suggests you write down all the extra concepts you aim to teach your baby.
Questions to ask
Ask questions with respect to the book to your baby, irrespective of whether they can answer the questions yet or not.
I cannot stress enough about the importance of planning before starting with a new book. It will be a lot easier for you and your partner or even your nanny to have either a well planned out lesson or even a rough sketch of what you want to concentrate on with respect to the book.
- Use loud voice and expressive gestures for them to have a good silly time reading with you.
- Loads of pointing to a thing in the book and repeating the name
- Give them the option to select the book of their choice
- Don’t simply read words from the book. Instead pay more attention to the illustration in the page.
Whether children benefit cognitively or not, this period of you reading to your baby or toddlers is an amazing period of bonding for both parents and their kids. Enjoy and do let me know if you use any other approaches to better and effective reading to your baby in the comments section.