Reading to your baby is a great way to give her a head start in life. You don’t even have to wait for her to be born. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband would often read Goodnight Moon to her, and after she was born, we were delighted that she seemed to recognize the book!
Some studies show that newborn babies become calmer when they hear the same stories and songs they heard in the womb. This is especially important in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy when they are starting to absorb language. Reading is important, even before babies are born!
After babies are born, looking at and talking about books with them is a first step in teaching them to talk. Children whose parents talk and read to them often know more words by age 2 than toddlers who have not been read to.
A couple things to keep in mind when reading books to your baby: 1) newborns only see about 8-12 inches in front of their face; 2) they only see in black and white and shades of grey at birth (they develop color vision around 4 months of age), so they like contrasting black and white with bold geometric shapes. You can easily find black and white books created especially for newborns.
Set aside a few minutes every day to read with your baby. Make sure she is changed and fed and not too sleepy yet. Making reading part of the bedtime routine is a good idea. Keep this time distraction free, away from TV and phones. From 0-3 months, only expect your baby to pay attention for about 2 minutes. He will start looking at the book and your face. Eventually, he will start to smile and coo. Read with a lot of expression in your face and voice. This will help with emotional development.
No need to stress. With newborns, simply say the words and point to the pictures, in whichever language you choose. Babies love repetition so don’t worry about reading the same books over and over. Books with rhymes and songs are good for little babies.
You can keep a book in the diaper bag and when you have some time while waiting at the doctor’s office or taking the bus, pull it out and read with your baby instead of showing her a phone. Set your baby up to be a happy reader!
Dr. Meredith Clayton, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics