We all know the importance of reading in the lives of our children. As parents of young elementary school children, we are always receiving reminders from teachers to read with our kids nightly. Most of us even recognize the importance of reading to our preschoolers. But what about our infants? Is it really important to sit down and read to them each day? In short, the answer is yes! Let’s explore a few reasons why reading to your infant is important.
No matter how smart your infant is (and every mom knows her baby is the smartest!), we all can admit that small babies cannot follow the plot of a story. So what is the point of reading to them? One of the most imperative reasons is because it gives them positive experiences with books. Research has shown the importance of physical touch in the lives of infants. When we snuggle in with our babies and open a book, the reading of the book registers as a positive experience. The more positive experiences with books that we can link together for our baby, the more likely that he or she will be excited about reading when entering school. Consequently, it is also crucial to have “baby friendly” books available for your little one to interact with. We are not building positive book interactions when we repeatedly tell baby “no” when she reaches for a book. If we have chunky board books and soft cloth books available, our babies can be free to turn pages, chew on, and handle books in typical baby fashion!
Another crucial reason for reading to your baby is it promotes healthy cognitive development. When he is born, your infant’s brain contains 100 billion neurons. These neurons form connections with other neurons. If you as a caregiver create a nurturing and interesting environment for him, the number of his neural connections increases. Thus, by reading regularly to your infant, you can physically alter the wiring of his brain! So remember, reading that story before laying your little one down for his nap not only provides him with much needed physical touch, it also promotes healthy brain development.
Language development is the natural result of a healthy brain. The more time you spend reading aloud to your baby, the more exposure she will have to a larger number of words. According to kidshealth.org, a website which promotes children’s health and development, “Kids whose parents frequently talk/read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to.” An increased vocabulary will yield benefits later on when your child begins learning to read. Why wouldn’t we want to give our little ones this head start in life?
Studies definitively show that reading to your infant cannot begin too early. I know some of my best memories are of reading to my babies. So pick up a book today and read to your little one (it’s o.k. if a little book chewing is involved!). We would love to hear your experiences – leave a comment below telling us about your favorite memory of reading to your baby!