Dr. V.S. Gayathri
Importance of Reading to Infants and Toddlers
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
You must have heard the popular quote that “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Reading to your child is probably one of the first ways to build a connect with them.
A study was conducted in Rhode Island Hospital where two groups of eight months old were compared. One of the groups were read to very often as babies, while the other was not. It was deduced that the ‘receptive vocabularies’ (number of words they understand) of those babies who were exposed to reading at an early age increased by 40% as they grew up, while that for the non-reading group only increased by 16%.
Hence, the American Academy of Pediatrics passed a guideline to advise all parents to start reading to their child right from their infant days. So, you should also begin reading to them as early as 3 months.
Many of you might be wondering how to read to an infant who probably doesn’t understand anything yet or how to make reading more enjoyable for them. Before going to the ways to read more effectively to infants and toddlers, let us quickly understand the manifold benefits of reading to them.
Reading helps to bond better. Parents get to spend quality time with their children. Both infants and toddlers can feel more connected with the parents and hence become more interactive. It also helps to build a positive attitude.
Reading helps in listening skills and imagination. It increases their attention span and kids become more focused and creative. It helps them to concentrate.
Reading boosts analytical skills and thinking abilities. Developing these from an early age makes them more prepared for their preschool and increases their grasping power. Going forward, vocabulary building becomes a major output of the same.
Reading facilitates effective communication. Reading is like communicating with your child from an early age. This leads to improving their own communication skills in turn. Being a good reader is always a prerequisite for an effective communicator, both in terms of speaking and writing.
Reading helps them to build experiences. They are able to react and cope with situations better, and release anxiety This is also a catalyst for good interpersonal skills and relationship building in the future.
You can read a variety of books depending on the age group of the child.
For infants, books with highly contrasting images that are visually appealing can be chosen. Board books or cloth ones that have a touch and feel effect are the best so that the baby can connect to the book itself while you are reading. Interactive books with simple light and sound effects or Peekaboo’s lift the flap books are highly recommended for them.
For toddlers as well, books that help them understand the reading content properly with big, bold letters with simple text and illustrations should be chosen. Because the idea is not only to read to them but also to get them reading on their own in the process. Try to start with simple contests of shares, colours, animals, their sounds, letters, etc., mostly things that they are familiar with or they see in the surroundings. Try to use more rhyming ones which makes it more interesting and easy to interpret.
Here comes the interesting part and hope these tips and suggestions will help you.
For infants, Sing- Read-Repeat works really well. Try to snuggle them on your lap or on their bed before you start reading. Be more expressive with frequent eye contact. Let them touch and feel the book you are reading as well. Show them pictures while you read. You can also try a bot of voice modulation.
Toddlers are more energetic and tend to move around, so don’t expect them to sit in one place. To involve them, you can use props like finger or hand puppets, or try different voices for characters for example narrating the story of Goldilocks and Three Bears with character voices.
WHERE and WHEN?
Parents need to understand that reading to their children doesn’t necessarily start till when they start schooling. It needs to start at a very early age.
For infants, you can start reading to them during bedtime at night or even when they are very active during the day.
For toddlers, reading to them at bedtime needs to be a habit already and also to keep them engaged for some part of the day, even when they are studying. Not only you reading to them, but toddlers can also be gradually encouraged to read small sentences on their own to instill reading as a habit from an early age.
For infants, books can be in the form of baby toys or a mix with them like touch and feel books, pop-up books, and others. Even, for toddlers, well-illustrated short story books or board books should be introduced as a part of their playtime itself. They should have easy access to them and keep where the baby can reach them. The idea of a home-made baby library isn’t a bad one.
According to a study in 2019, it has been found that taking away screens and reading to kids younger than 5 years can boost their brain development. There is an increase in the organized white matter which involves developing language and learning ability. So, do not wait too long to start reading to your child. The impact can be immensely productive. Start reading if you haven’t and make the best use of the time now that you are available at home with them.
Here are some of my favorite book suggestions for toddlers:
Goodnight Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
Llama Llama red Pajama Books
Hope I was able to decode and highlight the important aspects of reading to infants and toddlers. Make reading fun for both you and your child!