Baby's First Year · Parenting

Reading to baby: Get an early start on a lifetime of learning

Storytime on the playmat with parent and baby in an indoor setting. parent is face to face with baby

The time I spend with my kids reading a book is my favourite part of the day. It’s a time where everyone can wind down, snuggle in, explore new adventures and…have fun while learning language!

So how early should we start reading to our children?

Research shows that in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, babies are able to listen and absorb sounds, rhythms, and patterns spoken by the parents. Books written for babies and toddlers often have repetition, rhyme and a good rhythm.

Also, the type of books, how a book is read, and how often a child is read to, from 6-24 months of age, can impact the size of a child’s vocabulary and early reading skills in later years.

Reading books to your child during infancy and the preschool years helps your child’s brain grow! Your baby is born ready to learn, so start reading right away!

Video – Read, Speak, Sing: Your baby and early literacy (Canadian Paediatric Society)

When introducing reading, remember to:

  • Pick a book that is age appropriate

For children 0-12 months, pick a book that is colourful, has pictures of familiar objects, is small enough for baby to hold, and is durable (as your baby is probably interested in putting the book in their mouth)

  • Be fun and make the book interactive

Make sounds, uses different voices, and change the volume and tone of your voice. This will catch your child’s attention and help them want to look at the book longer. Point to pictures and encourage your baby to touch different pictures or textures on the page.

  • Model how to use a book

When you hold a book, turn the pages, and point to different words or pictures, your child is learning how to explore a book and will eventually try to copy your actions

  • Make reading a part of your daily routine

Reading/exploring a book for even a few minutes is effective, and the more often you do it, the more comfortable your child will feel with looking at a book. Remember, you don’t have to read the words on the page. You may only be able to talk about the pictures or look at a few pages before your child loses interest.

Sign up for a free library card to have access to hundreds of books, resources and infant/child programs.

Connect with Early Abilities if you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s communication milestones or for more tips on sharing a book and promoting early literacy.

As of April 1, 2022 the Preschool Speech and Language, Blind-Low Vision and Infant Hearing programs have moved from Toronto Public Health (Early Abilities) to Surrey Place. To register for services or learn more about the programs, please visit Surrey Place or call 416-925-5141.

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