It’s never too early to start reading to your baby. Whether baby is still in your belly, 10 days, or 10 weeks old, reading aloud to baby is one ofthe most beneficial bonding activities you can do together. Reading to baby introduces them to new words, emotions, and ideas. And there’s no right or wrong way to do it! Did you know that many expectant parents begin to read to their babies while they’re still in mom’s womb? Don’t be surprised when baby recognizes your voice, and your partner’s voice too, when you’ve been reading to baby throughout pregnancy. Between 6 and 7 months of pregnancy, most babies can hear your voice and the voices of others. Maximize this time to read stories and make funny sounds.

Reading Adventures

So much is going on when you’re reading to your little one! Your baby picks up on your emotions as you make expressive sounds reflecting joy, laughter, surprise, or suspense.

The sounds you make are cues that support baby’s social and emotional development long before they ever express their first words. As you read, encourage your baby to look at where you’re pointing and to touch any tactile features common in baby books. Introduce baby to soft, pliable books. Babies are drawn to contrast—begin with textured and pop-up books in simple shapes and black and white colors. As baby grows, read repetitive and rhyming books. As baby begins to toddle, they may well hand you a favorite book after a good chew on its corners. Don’t hesitate to ad lib on the stories—remember baby’s not

following along with the words. Babies love rhyming—feel free to exaggerate the sounds—baby is learning language from the tone and inflection in your voice—have fun with it!

Build Baby’s Library

Ask friends and family members for recommendations regarding books their babies liked. You can also ask your local librarian for recommendations on raising a reader. Most libraries host a weekly story time, which your baby will likely enjoy. Get ready for the squeaks and squeals as the librarian vies for the attention of all the littles ones. As baby’s first birthday rolls around, put books on a list of desired gifts. Baby books come in all shapes, sizes, and materials including cloth-like paper, cardboard, and with padding. They will be chewed on, sat on, rolled upon, and drooled over at the very least—all of which is part of the adventure in reading to baby.

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Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS, LCCE, is founding editor of Healthy Mom&Baby, Senior Director of Partnerships & Publications at AWHONN, and a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator in Sarasota, FL.

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