When, where and how should I read to my baby?
We know it’s important to share books with babies, but when should you start and what should you be reading? Mum-of-three Amanda Overend, owner of Books & Pieces, answers some of your most frequent questions.
1. How soon should I start reading to my baby?
It’s never too early to start enjoying books with your new arrival; some parents choose to read to their baby before they’re even born.
Whilst very young babies will benefit more from hearing your voice than looking at the books themselves, studies show reading can provide developmental benefits for babies as young as three months.
2. What types of books should I read?
There are so many different books out there, that as a new parent it can be difficult to know which ones to buy for your new arrival. I always recommend parents invest in:
A buggy book
Small enough for your baby to hold, buggy books can be attached to pretty much anything, and are perfect for when you’re out and about.
A cloth book
Soft and light for little people to get their hands (and mouths!) on, these can usually be popped in the washing machine too so are easy to clean when they get dirty.
A black and white book
Your baby’s eyesight isn’t fully developed when they’re first born, so black and white books with their bold contrasting patterns and outlines give little eyes something to focus on.
A simple story book
It’s never too soon to read to your little person, so I’d definitely recommend investing in at least one story book early on. For the youngest babies, story length isn’t as important so I advise parents to choose a children’s book (or books) they enjoy reading. As baby becomes more alert, books with bright, bold illustrations will start to grab their attention.
3. When should I read to my baby?
You can read to your baby at any time of the day (or night!). Sharing a book is a great way to have some snuggle time with your little one – as well as an excellent opportunity for tired parents to put their feet up! If your baby is alert you might pick a colourful board book with bold images and point to what you can see; or you might choose to share a story book with a sleepy baby as a way of getting them ready for a nap.
4. When should I introduce books to the bedtime routine?
Introduce books when you and your baby are ready. Don’t feel pressurised into reading to your baby every night – if your little one is too tired or fractious then skip the story; sharing books should be fun and enjoyable so please don’t force it. Choose shorter story books that will keep your baby’s attention that you can pull out on those nights you want a speedier bedtime routine. And pick a time that works for you too – lots of families share a story after baby’s bath, but you might prefer to read pre-bath before when your little one is still alert.
5. What if my baby doesn’t like books?
Don’t worry if you feel like you’re not getting much of a reaction from your little one when you first start to share books with them. It can feel like a one way street, but know that your efforts will pay off.
Not all babies will sit quietly for you to finish a story, and they may get distracted after just a page or two. Don’t be disheartened – keep sharing books, and make them easily accessible for little ones by including cloth and board books in their toy box and attaching a buggy book to the pram, car seat or play gym. You might find your baby prefers interactive books that they can explore themselves; see what books spark their interest and introduce more of what they like – your local library is a great place to test out books for free.