As early learning professionals, we know that babies are born learning, and that their brains develop rapidly during their earliest months and years of life. Reading to infants supports their healthy brain development by stimulating their sense of wonder. It’s also easy to do at any time throughout the day, and requires no set-up or clean-up!
How Does Reading Support Infant Learning?
An article posted by the educator network, First Book, explains how reading aloud to infants supports the rapid brain development that occurs during the first year of life. “Born with about 100 billion neurons (the cells that receive, process, and transmit information in our brains), babies are actively working to make sense of the world around them. These neurons have the ability to connect with each other and form neural pathways — the foundation for learning. Reading aloud to babies, and using language promotes the development of these pathways, and the more pathways a child develops, the more they will be able to learn as time passes by.”
A ZERO TO THREE article, Read Early and Often, notes that babies might show interest in a book by touching it or mouthing it. These actions signal discovery, interest, and brain development.
Foundational Language Skills
Cleveland Clinic pediatrician, Sarah Klein M.D., writes that when books are read out loud, infants have a chance to hear new words and language patterns that they might not be exposed to in typical day-to-day conversation. When we describe a book’s story or images to a young child, we are also introducing them to new topics and ideas, further supporting emergent language skills.
Bonding & Connection
Reading to a baby can happen throughout the day– during meal times, during diaper changes, or when snuggling in a cozy chair. Babies enjoy the sound of their caregiver’s voice, and the one-on-one attention that comes during reading time helps the infant to feel safe, secure, and connected.
Making Reading Meaningful
In an article for Kids Health, Kandia Lewis, a research scientist at Nemours Children’s Health System, offers some great tips for making reading with infants especially enjoyable and meaningful:
Don’t worry about finishing entire books– focus on the pages that you and your baby enjoy.
Try to read every day, even for just a few minutes.
Read with expression, make your voice higher or lower where it’s appropriate, or use different voices for different characters.
Don’t worry about following the text exactly. Stop once in a while and ask questions or make comments on the pictures or text. “Where’s the kitty? There he is! What a cute black kitty.”
Babies love — and learn from — repetition, so don’t be afraid of reading the same books over and over. When you do, repeat the same emphasis each time as you would with a familiar song.
Encouraging Parents to Read to their Infants
Parents of the infants in your care might not think about reading with their child before that child has even begun to talk. You can encourage parents to try reading aloud by telling them which books their baby enjoys hearing you read, how their baby responds to books, and how reading fits into their daily schedule.
More Resources & Favorite Stories
For more information and tips for reading with infants, check out some of these articles from the Good2Know Network archives: