Even before they have a grasp on the language themselves, taking time to read to your baby immerses them in the rhythms and sounds of speech, which is crucial for language development. Early exposure to books both boosts children’s language abilities and makes them more eager to learn how to read.
Not only are there proven educational benefits to reading to your children, but the bonding experience is unbeatable. If you are wondering what types of books to read to your child in their first few years of life, look no further! Here is an age-by-age reading guide.
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Even in the first few months of life, an infant can listen to your voice, look at pictures, and point to objects. Because their vision is still developing, choose books with large, high-contrast pictures and little or no text. Consider books with other interactive elements like peepholes, mirrors, or puppets to keep your little one engaged. Guide your child through the book by pointing to pictures and saying the names of objects. Associating words with pictures and real-life object will teach your child the importance of language.
Because comprehension is not really the point of reading to babies this young, there is also value to reading more “grown-up” material to your child, such as your personal novels or magazines. Reading to infants is mainly about exposure and hearing the tone of your voice.
Roughly halfway through their first year, babies can start to grasp some of the simple words read and/or spoken to them, especially those from their everyday life. Take “milk,” “bottle,” “mommy,” “daddy,” or “doggy,” for example.
Books with a single object or person per page are best to keep your little one focused. Verbalizing the name of something your baby recognizes helps them understand that pictures stand for real things. Repetition is key. Use your hands, face, and voice to act out the book, and spend extra time on pictures your baby shows interest in. Get silly with it! If you are reading a book about animals, make animal noises.Books with a single object or person per page are best to keep your little one focused. Click To Tweet
At this age, you can introduce books with one or two sentences per page. Ask your baby simple questions such as “Do you see the dog?” as you read to invite participation. Extend the questions into the real world, but asking your baby questions like “Where’s your nose?” Your baby might even be old enough to answer simple questions with words. Prompt this by asking questions like “What’s that?” or “What does the cat say?”
Besides reading, here are 4 other activities to encourage your toddler’s language development.
If you maintain a daily reading routine, your toddlers will look forward to it and come to find their reading time calming and reassuring. The same principle applies for familiar books. Around 18 months, your child may ask for the same book day after day. Practice your patience, because this repetition has been shown to have learning benefits. Hearing the same words and seeing the same images over and over will help your child make sense of the association and then remember new words.
One extra tip: Because babies have a tendency to be hard on their playthings, stick mostly to board books. The thick material can take rough handling and even chewing.