As a librarian and an avid reader, I already planned to bombard my baby with a litany of literacy boosters right away. In our household, reading is a shared value and we spend many an hour listening to a Songza 90’s music playlist while getting lost in a book or magazine. So, it neither surprised nor intimidated me to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics is prescribing reading aloud to children from infancy. In their policy paper published in June of this year, they summarized that “[r]eading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”
We all want to give our children the best possible start in life and this seems to me like a fun and easy way to do it. I realize that not everyone is comfortable reading aloud to very young children as it can feel silly, especially when they’re too young to fully grasp what’s going on. Here are some tips to fit reading into your baby’s life:
· Read aloud to your infant from whichever book you are currently reading. The sound of your voice, the varied vocabulary, and the visual appearance of you reading a book will do wonders for encouraging literacy all through life, even if it's not a children's book.
× Choose board books for babies that are illustrated versions of songs or nursery rhymes you are already familiar with. It may feel less odd to sing a song or recite a rhyme than it feels to read a story to your very little one.
· Take your baby to the library for baby time a few times a week. These programs are specifically tailored for babies 0-18 months, and incorporate songs, stories, and movement based on child development research. Let the librarian make a fool of herself while your baby reaps all the benefits!
· Make up stories while you go on a walk or make up a song while you are preparing a bottle. The language benefits associated with storytelling are immense. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting down with your infant and a book (since they can’t focus like a toddler or older child) you can still talk to them constantly during the day.
Before you go out, throw a few board books into your diaper bag. They’re an easy go-to distraction for grocery store line-ups or a nice post-picnic activity to enjoy together in the shade. Send us an e-mail if you’d like a recommendation for a great book to engage your child.