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Jan 21, 2012
The Early Years
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends daily reading to children beginning by 6 months of age. Reading aloud to children has several benefits: vocabulary enrichment, language learning, improved communication and listening skills, brain development and early literacy skills, among them.
Ninety percent of a human’s brain develops by the time he turns 5. This is why it’s all the more important to talk to and read aloud with young children. Children who have been read to in the early years are better prepared for kindergarten. They are more likely to score higher on tests than peers who have not had similar early learning experiences. They display expanded vocabularies as they grow older.
However, my favorite reason to read to a child is the bonding opportunity it provides. The fact that the physical closeness and time spent reading with a child does wonders for his mental and emotional development and confidence is reason enough for me to pick up a book and start reading to any child in my vicinity. This series of posts explores the when’s, why’s, how’s and what’s of reading to young children.
When should you start reading to a child?
The official recommendation is when the child is 6 months old, but there’s nothing to stop you from reading to your child soon after his birth, or earlier.
As silly and awkward as it may seem, reading and talking to your unborn child is a wonderful way to bond with him. Babies can hear and recognize the vibrations of familiar sounds such as the mother’s voice, while still in the womb. Familiar sounds, certain types of music and vibrations are known to create a calming effect on the unborn child.
Reading, talking and singing to your child are all part of this “bonding before birth” experience. They may not turn the child into Einstein overnight just as exposing a baby to Mozart’s work does not necessarily guarantee exceptional musical abilities in him. But, they do help form and strengthen network connections in his brain, thus laying the foundation for “smartness.”
Reading to a child from an early age gets him used to being around books, stories and printed words. It familiarizes him with the concept of reading. Books with texture such as cloth books, teething books and clunky board books help the baby touch, feel and process them in doing so.
A newborn may not be ready to fully absorb the audio-visual stimulation that reading aloud provides. However, a baby who has been exposed to books and the reading process from an early stage is likely to be more receptive when he is physically and intellectually ready for them. Children develop at different rates and you never know when your baby might roll over in his crib and reach for the familiar board book that you've read to him for months now.
The best part of starting early when it comes to reading to your baby is the fact that you are still in charge — a fact that will quickly change when your child is mobile in a few months or learns to say “Stop” and “No.” The first few days are the perfect time to start reading to your child because that’s one of the only times when you will hold each others' undivided attention.