It’s never too early to start reading to your child. Even if he’s only a few months old (and more interested in chewing the covers) the ritual of sitting on Mommy or Daddy’s lap reaps numerous long-term benefits.
Reading to your baby builds your bond and strengthens his visual and language skills. He learns sounds has different meanings (the foundation of speech and comprehension) and builds his vocabulary and self-expression. Research also shows that aside from developing a life long love for books, it also makes a child more receptive to all kinds of learning.
Here are some tips for choose books that your baby will love.
1. Choose baby-friendly materials.
Look for board books with rounded corners and sturdy spines, or cloth books that can withstand your baby’s chewing and drooling and look good as new after a wash. Put off paper books until your child learns to carefully turn the pages—reading won’t be fun for him (or you!) if you’re constantly fussing over rips and tears.
2. Babies love bright colors.
Babies first learn to see black, red and white, and later on, boldly contrasting colors against a white background. Some board books also incorporate glittery shapes that reflect light from a lamp. This will definitely catch your baby’s attention! One book to try? “Growing Vegetable Soup” by Lois Ehlert.
3. Get baby books with realistic pictures.
Hand-drawn illustrations are cute, but are harder for baby to recognize than pictures of actual photos of animals, every day objects and even other babies. One great example is “Baby Pets” by Margaret Miller, or DK Kids’ series (“Baby’s First Book of Colors” and “My First Body Board Book.” are good examples).
4. Keep it short and simple.
It’s better for baby’s first books to have one or two pictures to a page. Not only do objects tend to be bigger, the layout is less distracting and overwhelming for him.
The fonts should also be baby-friendly. Studies show that babies are more likely to recognize bold, simple letters (avoid curly, cutesy scripts) in red or black. If the baby book has a “story” there should only be one line per page—your child won’t be able to remember more, or have to patience to sit through a complicated plot.
5. Look for rhymes that your baby can remember.
Your baby will be drawn more to the sound of words than the actual meaning. Repetitve rhymes are great, especially if they tend to have a sing-song, stick-in-your-head quality (like the classic baby book, “Chika Chika Boom Boom.”). Kids love familiarity and will get a kick out of recognizing the next line.
Here’s a reading tip: when you read aloud a story, use a high-pitched voice and exaggerate the sounds, slowly enunciating each syllable. Studies show that babies are drawn to these tones (which may explain why parents instinctively coo or speak in a higher voice whenever they “baby talk.”)
6. Buy interactive baby books.
The best ones have different textures (like Sandra Boynton’s “Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy”) and flaps to lift or tabs to pull. (like Karen Katz’ “Toes, Ears, and Nose”). Some books also create sounds at a push of a button (these require batteries, though) or have crinkly materials sewn directly on the page.
7. Build on your child’s personal experience and interests.
Is your child fascinated by the neighbor’s pet? Then get animal books. Does your child wriggle her butt whenever she hears a song? Then look for baby books that play music.
Both scientific research and the experience of millions of moms show that babies already show unique personality traits. Take that into consideration when you go book shopping. You know your child best, and draw on that mommy’s Instinct when you build your baby’s first library.