If someone told you that you hold the key to unlocking your baby’s academic potential, improving the probability that she will stay in school, increasing her lifespan, nurturing her emotional development and self esteem, and stimulating her imagination, wouldn’t you respond by asking, “How?”
How can these goals be accomplished? The object that enables you to give these gifts to your child is as close as your nearest bookshelf.
The importance of reading aloud to children has been proven in thousands of studies by the US Department of Education. No single factor has been as directly linked to academic achievement as whether a child has been read to.
It’s as easy as ABC to translate all the research into success for your child. Libraries offer excellent sample reading lists, and children’s librarians love to recommend age-appropriate books.
Rose Fuller, a library specialist in Bear, Delaware, stresses the emotional importance of reading to young children. “It creates a bond,” she says. “You can teach them things from the story you’re reading and stimulate their imaginations.”
Fuller suggests finding appropriate books in From A to Zoo, which organizes children’s books by subject. If your baby loves watching dogs out the window, for instance, you’ll find a list of books on that subject.
And as busy as your baby’s world is with playdates, naps, and snacks, reading aloud together is an activity that carves out a special time for parents, or grandparents, and children.
Reading to your baby can be a blast … if you know some basics.
Select books you love yourself.
Sure bets would be those books you loved as a child, as well as books that catch your eye in the local library or your favorite bookstore. Esme Raji Codell, author of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, suggests reading the book completely before introducing it to your child. “Then, when you share it, you will be familiar with the contents and can read with more expression,” she says.
Choose a book that lends itself to reading aloud.
Engage your child’s interest with “folktales, funny … stories, stories with surprise endings, and stories in which children can join in,” either in actions or noises, recommends Codell. Babies especially love books with funny sounds, silly rhymes, and over-the-top characters.
Make the reading experience interactive.
As you read to your baby, use different voices for different characters and make sound effects to bring the story to life. Encourage your child to participate in the story by asking questions, pointing at pictures, and making connections to their own experiences.
Read at a comfortable pace.
Babies have short attention spans, so it’s important to read at a pace that keeps them engaged. Don’t rush through the book, but also don’t linger too long on one page. Pay attention to your baby’s cues and adjust accordingly.
Make reading a part of your daily routine. Set aside a specific time each day to read with your baby, whether it’s before bedtime or after a meal. Reading regularly helps your baby develop a love for books and learning.
As your baby grows, continue to read together and introduce new books and genres. Reading aloud to your child not only improves their academic success but also strengthens your relationship and creates cherished memories. So grab a book, snuggle up with your baby, and get lost in a world of imagination and learning.