Growing up, my mum made a valiant effort to get me to read. I had the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Anthony Horowitz, Goosebumps and even the mighty Harry Potter thrown at me and still I was in the 'reluctant reader' category. Unlike my brother who would read the latest 'Discworld' trilogy in a day!
It wasn't that I couldn't read, I could. I'd just rather watch the TV show or listen to the cassette. (That's right, a cassette!) I would hedge my bets that the reason I can read is because of the early work mum & dad put in when I was a baby and child. They'd read to me all the time.
Now I'm a parent, I can see far more benefits to reading to my kids than just them learning to read. I've developed a stand off inside me; The youthful reluctant reader VS the parental desire for my kid's development to be the best it can be!
Ok, I'll assume that you do find time to feed your baby and find time to allow your baby to sleep... But do you find time to read to your baby?
Reading to your baby is arguably as important as your baby's feeding and sleeping. Even before your baby is born, reading to your baby in the womb makes a lot of sense! They get used to your voice way before they grace us with their presence.
Reading to your baby helps build vocabulary, imagination and communication skills. Not only this but it obviously gives your baby a head start into the world of letters, numbers, stories, colours.
Sharing a book together can help create a strong bond between you and your baby. It's a calming activity where your entire focus is on the baby; just what they want. Through the process of reading, your baby is hearing your voice and responding to it. This helps them develop their language skills from the word go. Surrounding them with the rhythm and sounds of speech is crucial to a baby's development. There's been plenty of research into this! I try to vary the pitch of my voice and volume to make it interesting and add to the experience.
We found a great website with 10 reasons why reading to your baby is such a good thing to do, but our top 3 reasons why reading is important were these:
#1 It helps build a strong bond
#2 It helps basic speech skills from an early age
#3 It helps improve a baby's communication skills
We've found that some of the best books are books with things to feel and touch. Books like this: Baby's Very First Touchy-feely Book (Usborne Touchy Feely Books) add another sense for your baby to experience. I was amazed when I first read to the boy and showed him the fluffy bits, the rough bits and the 'lift up flaps;' he really engaged with them.
In essence, reading to your baby is exactly the same as speaking to your baby. To improve all the things I stated above, babies need to be surrounded by words. Books are the best way to do this! It helps avoid feeling like a wally too! Talking to your baby about general life can feel pretty dumb to begin with!
This is a quick video of me reading to the boy. It's a touchy feely book, and you can see how engaged he is with it. I'm not saying this is a model that you should definitely replicate, but what I found amazing was that when I am in the middle of reading, I don't realise that he is responding like he does in this video. Looking from the outside in on something so ordinary, like reading, allows you see it in a totally different way. This video showed me just how much the boy enjoyed reading with me and how much he engaged with it. That makes me want to do it more. Try videoing yourself reading to your baby and watch it back.