Reading aloud to a tiny tot who doesn’t yet say a single word may seem strange or even silly. But children who are read to from an early age are more successful when learning to read later for several reasons:
- Listening to stories helps babies develop language skills. They begin to understand the rhythm of sentences and key words.
- Hearing you read aloud encourages babies to use their own voice and coo back to you.
- Picture books help babies learn to recognize familiar objects, like balls, dogs and shoes. Reading picture books can be more effective at teaching a baby words than simply pointing to an object. (For example, you might point to your baby’s nose and say ‘nose’ – but unless you’re doing this in front of a mirror, they may not be making the mental connection. Showing them a nose in a book is much more clear.)
- Stories stimulate babies’ imagination and creativity, which helps them develop better problem-solving skills.
- Don’t forget that reading stories is great bonding time and can be very soothing for your toddler.
Some tips on reading to tiny toddlers:
- Slow right down. Reading slowly helps children work out who’s saying what and helps them to follow the storyline.
- Use voices – animate the book by using a booming voice for dad or a squeeky voice for the mouse.
- Use a cloth book if your baby isn’t interested in sitting still. Let them mouth it and squash it and crinkle it – and just generally use it as a toy.
- If you only read one page at a time before your little one hops up to do something else, that’s completely fine. Don’t worry if your child won’t sit through a whole book.
- Go for books that repeat words. Babies and toddlers love repetition.