It truly is never too early to start reading to your baby. In fact, many experts recommend starting from as soon as they’re born! But when approaching something that is so crucial to your child’s overall development (and, studies show, lifelong earning potential), it is only natural to want to do it as efficiently as possible.
Here we discuss four key techniques to help you and your baby get the absolute most out of reading time.
#1: Choose a Suitable Venue
First things first: we need to get into the right mindset to read. The easiest way to do this is by designating a specific area for reading time. Stick with the three C’s here: find somewhere cosy, comfortable and calm.
You want somewhere familiar to the baby so that they feel completely relaxed, but also somewhere without distractions such as toys or pets. This is quiet time for just the two of you to bond over what should blossom into a shared love of reading.
Keep in mind that your baby isn’t the only one susceptible to distraction! Make sure you’re not reading to them while keeping one eye on the TV or your phone. If you’re not fully engaged, how can you expect them to be?
#2: Make it Entertaining
It can be such a temptation to keep a young child entertained or occupied with the mesmerising flashing lights of one of the many screens readily available in the home today – be it a phone, tablet, TV or computer. But recent studies have shown that increased screen time in 2 to 17 year-olds correlates to a multitude of mental health and cognitive issues, such as anxiety, depression and lower levels of self-control. This information should not be taken lightly, especially in conjunction with the fact that the World Health Organisation recommends no screen time whatsoever for any child under two years old.
But how, in this day and age, can a book hope to compete with technology for a young child’s attention? The onus falls on us parents to make reading as exciting as possible, through funny voices, actions, singing, or anything else you can think of to bring the story world to life.
Another great idea is personalised baby books, which add the baby’s name to their favourite stories or nursery rhymes to make them a tangible part of the book. This can help them feel like the star of the show, an instantly engaging emotion at any age!
#3: Choose Baby-Friendly Books
Let’s be honest, one of the most exciting parts of having kids is the excuse to go back and relive our own childhood, including our own favourite kids’ books. But as much as you can’t wait to revisit the Harry Potter or Twilight series, patience is a virtue.
Instead, make sure you select a book that is easy for a baby to understand and which relates to their surroundings. For a very young or even newborn baby, opt for books with bright colours, textures and patterns. Board books are a great choice, as they have rounded out edges and can be bashed and thrown and chewed without posing any danger to your baby.
A slighter older baby (1-2 years) will be ready to engage with an actual story and characters. Still try and keep it simple though – farm animals are tried and tested, of course, and offer the opportunity to make use of all the barnyard impressions your loved ones have banned you from performing at parties – don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about!
Picking a book on a subject or character that they’re interested in is always going to ensure they’re more engaged. Only you will understand what they like, so it makes sense to choose a book on a subject they’ll love.
Babies aged three and above should be beginning to get to grips with numbers and letters, and hopefully will have developed a passion for testing themselves and trying to read the odd words by themselves, so pick books that encourage this. If you read together regularly, you should naturally recognise their progress and be able to decide when it’s time to upgrade to the next level.
#4: Get into a Routine
The final and perhaps most important technique for an optimum reading experience is to view it not as a singular effort, but a solidified part of this and every other day. Having reading time at the same time every day makes it easier to focus on the task in hand, for both you and your baby.
If you have a busy schedule or generally find it hard to stick to a routine, don’t be afraid to start small. Even if you read for only a few minutes, it’s a start. Then, your next step is to increase that time a little each day, until you’ve been doing it long enough that it becomes second nature. Consistency is key here.
Always remember, this isn’t a fad or hobby; this is the start of a lifelong parenting journey, a quest to equip and prepare your child for the big, wide world as best as you possibly can. What could be a better use of your time than that?