I always get asked by moms when they should introduce books to their children. The answer is, as soon as possible! Some people thought it was crazy that I was reading to Owen when he was just 2 months old. However, research has proven that babies as young as 2 months can begin to focus on the words in front of them as well as listen to the reader's voice. Therefore making reading important as early as infancy.
Reading aloud is just as important as having your child read to you. As children listen to you read, they begin to pick up on words just by looking at the text. These "sight words" help build their vocabulary and their reading skills. In addition, children hear how your voice fluctuates as you read a story and they begin to mimic your voice allowing them to become more fluent readers. Fluency is the rate at which your child can read (words per minute).
Now back to the babies. Read with them! Sit down and put your baby in your lap as you show him the book while you read. Point to pictures as you say the words. Use your voice to entertain him. Your baby will get used to sitting still while reading together as well as the "rules" of reading: i.e. holding the book the right way, turning the pages, etc. Your baby will also find it soothing to hear your voice, just as he did in the womb.
As your baby gets older (say around 6 months) let him hold the book and try turning the pages. I love putting books out as part of my one year old's "toys" so he can "read" whenever he wants to...and you know what, he does! We have tons of board books that are simple: one word and one picture. We also have touch and feel books which are awesome for developing his senses. I have noticed his vocabulary increasing as we read more often. We have included reading time into our routine as well. I began this ritual when he was just 2 months old. We read 2 stories (it's important to do the same amount of books each time) right before bed, every night. I of course also read to him throughout the day. We read signs outside, we read words we've made on the fridge with magnets, I show him the labels on food and drinks in our kitchen as we eat. Language is all around us and it's our job to subject our children to it as often as possible!
As your child gets older, you can buy books with CDs or tapes. Your little one can "read" along as he listens to the story being told. This is called a Read Aloud.
Click Here to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book and CD sold on Amazon.
Make reading fun and adventurous early on and you will instill a life-long love of reading in your child.
There will be many more posts about reading in the future! As always, please feel free to leave a specific question and we'll get back to you.