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October 14, 2018

Reading to Your Infant- Why it’s Important

By Allison Brazis, MLIS

Reading out loud to your baby is a fun and inexpensive way to bond with your little one while supporting their developmental growth. Although infants don’t fully comprehend the meaning of words, the benefits of reading to them are monumental. For infants, including newborns to age 1, reading is a great stimulant and helps build vocabulary, memory and listening skills. When parents and caregivers read out loud using different voices and expressions, it nurtures the child’s emotional and social development.

Consider several factors when selecting books to read to infants. Babies learn through play so make story time fun. Choose books with rhymes and repetition. Use a sing-song voice and point to the different objects in the pictures. Newborns do not see color but they can see sharp contrasts. So exposing infants to books with high contrast black and white graphics strengthens eye development, increases concentration, stimulates brain cell connections and increases their attention span. Books with faces and mirrors are visually stimulating for infants as well. Touch-and-feel books allow babies to explore different textures, helping them to connect with the world around them. For a list of book suggestions, visit http://bit.ly/booksforinfants.

Although not every baby will show interest in being read to at first, stick with it. When my son was born, I was so excited to read to him. For his first book, I selected “C is for Chicago” by Maria Kernahan because that is where my son’s father was born. Midway through the book, my son started crying and wanted nothing to do with story time. I took his cue and we went to another activity. Don’t feel pressured to finish a book in one sitting. Reading should be a positive experience for everyone involved. My son is now 2 years old and my twin daughters are 9 months and we read together as a family. My husband and I take turns reading out loud while my son turns the pages for his sisters.

Board books are a great option for infants because the pages are made of heavy cardboard. This helps little fingers turn pages easily and causes fewer rips than paper pages. Also, because infants like to chew on their toys, board books last longer as they are more durable. Many classic picture books have been published as board books as well.

If you want to learn more about how to read to your child, visit an early literacy class at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library. Baby Time, for newborns to 18 months, is a lapsit program that allows you to bond with your baby through stories, bouncy rhymes, and songs. Toddler Time, for children 18 months to 3 years, includes stories, finger plays, and interactive activities. Story Time, for children ages 3-5 years, celebrates stories with action rhymes and other engaging activities. These 20-30 minute classes encourage language development, reading readiness and social interaction. Visit hcplc.org/events to find a class near you.