Reading to your child twenty minutes daily starting at birth is a common recommendation. But just how do you do it? A newborn is rarely awake, and when he is, his eyes can barely focus on your face a few inches away. You pull out one of those books from your baby shower, but you feel a little silly reading aloud to a baby who doesn't seem to be paying any attention.
When your child is first born, there are two categories of books to read. One category stimulates your baby's sense of sight and the other the sense of hearing.
SENSE OF SIGHT
Types of books to choose:
- Pictures of faces, especially other babies. Look for one close up per page and various expressions. Examples include: Baby Talk by Dawn Sirett; Global Babies and American Babies by The Global Fund for Children; and various titles by Margaret Miller. Can't find any of these? Make your own book out of baby pictures.
- High contrast patterns, especially black and white. The pictures can be strips, zig zags, or bulls-eyes, or more complex images of animals and everyday objects. Examples: Look! Look! by Peter Linenthal, I Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy, Freight Train by Donald Crews and board books by Tana Hoban. Can't find any of these? You can paint or draw your own high contrast patterns to show your baby.
- Stand a book up in front of your baby while he does tummy time.
- Hold a book above your baby as she lays on her back and talk about the picture when she looks at them.
SENSE OF HEARING
Types of books to choose:
- Anything! I picture on Dr Taub on House reading his infant girls Sport's Illustrated, and the babies laughing because he enjoys it. Babies are most interested in your voice, so read whatever will make you excited. I read Natalie classic children's literature such as House at Pooh Corner and Charlotte's Web, while newborn William heard Ralph S Mouse and Pinocchio. I read chapter books because I enjoyed them.
- Mother Goose nursery rhymes. They expose your child to many aspects of language including rhythm and rhyme.
- Telling stories. I've told my kids' fairy tales ranging from Cinderella to The Three Little Bears to Star Wars! I also occasionally told stories about my son's day as I nursed him to sleep. You don't always have to read from a book, especially times when your child isn't looking at the book anyway.
- Read while nursing or feeding your baby.
- Read while your child is playing close by.
- Get both parents involved at bedtime. One dresses, feeds, and soothes baby, while the other reads aloud.
The best benefit of reading to your infant twenty minutes a day from birth is that your children associates books, reading, and stories with the love and comfort they feel through your presence and voice. What a beautiful place to start life long learning!