Why should I read to my newborn?
Dear RIF: My friend, a preschool teacher, says I should read to my three-month old son. But what’s the point of reading to him when he can’t even understand what I’m saying?
It is never too soon to begin reading with a child. With infants, the point is not that they understand you, but that they hear your voice. Reading to newborns exposes them to the sounds of human speech. Reading out loud to babies—on your lap, in a bouncy seat, or even poised on the floor—is an important first step in helping them learn language.
Because babies are developing their visual acuity, experts suggest choosing books with high contrast. Books with black-and-white illustrations, like Plyllis L. Tildes' Baby Animals: Black and White or Tana Hoban's What is That?, are very effective, especially when held about 12 inches from an infant’s eyes.
Parents should also select stiff, board books or fold-out books that can be propped up in a crib, as well as washable cloth or vinyl books that babies can play with during bathtime.
Talking with infants, likewise, exposes them to language. Routines such as feeding, bathing, and diapering are ideal opportunities to share lullabies, short songs, and rhythmic activities.
Learning about language in these ways helps develop children’s brains, thus providing a strong foundation for literacy.
Advice for New Parents
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