Reading to Babies: Inspiring a Love of Books from Infancy
Two of my favorite teachers of all time are both pregnant! Miss Betsy, who was the infant teacher for both my kids (and therefore helped pave the road for my little book worms), is expecting her first child this spring. Miss Jackie, a former preschool and currently a Kindergarten Prep teacher, helped my daughter learn to read and is now teaching my son – she is expecting her first in December. Coincidentally, both of these pregnancies have inspired me to do a little book gathering from my kids’ bookshelves. As people who understand the value of reading to babies early on, I know that giving books to these teachers will make the perfect gift.
Reading to young children, starting in infancy, is recommended by early education experts everywhere. When I first announced my pregnancy, I was blessed by some wonderful people in my life who gave me books. I was working closely with The Book Vine for Children at the time and who better to hand-select books for my baby than Isabel Baker, owner of The Book Vine. My co-workers also helped me build my first library of books. They threw me a baby shower and each person handpicked their favorite children’s book to gift. Both of these acts of kindness made it pretty easy to start reading from the moment my daughter was born.
The experts also say it’s important to develop bedtime routines from an early age. Each night after a warm bath and changing my daughter into her snuggly pajamas, we would take turns reading three books. Some favorites included Everywhere Babies, Who Said Moo?, I Love You More and Counting Kisses. My daughter also particular liked the all flap books like the books written by Karen Katz.
Reading books before bedtime is something we still do to this day. But we’ve never limited ourselves to just bedtime reading. We read during bath time (including but not limited to the vinyl bath books), we read snuggled on the couch in the middle of the day, we read on the beach, we even read on long car rides. In fact, one of the benefits of reading that I never expected was how quickly a book can calm down an energetic toddler or refocus a bored child without the crutch of a TV. Reading in the car eliminates the dreaded “are we there yet?” (at least for a bit), and reading on the beach helps prolong the length of time my kids can last. Even now, I find my own daughter will cozy up with a book on a beach towel at the young age of 6.
I’m pretty confident that the reason both of my kids spoke at early ages is due to the amount of reading we do. There are books we read about a hundred times, books such as Selma that at age 4, my daughter “read” to me (okay maybe it was just that she has a good memory). My kids are particularly fond of the Dr. Seuss Learning Library books too. These introduce them to all kinds of interesting facts about sea creatures, weather, butterflies and money.
Books also bring my children to places they’ve never been or rarely visit. We have a story from Pike Place Market in Seattle that I brought back from a business trip. We have stories about the city of New Orleans and about Molly, the Pony, (the pony who survived Hurricane Katrina) and stories that introduce the kids to jazz. We have books about Boston, Nantucket, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and New Hampshire. Hallmark Recordable storybooks also have a time and a place in our home. The kids love listening to these on their own time or when I’m away on a business trip.
Each book on the bookshelf brings a sense of life and culture to the world outside our home, they ignite good memories and happy thoughts. They inspire us to all think a little harder, love a little more, snuggle and cuddle for just a few minutes longer. If you don’t already have a daily reading habit, I encourage you to start one. And if you do, I encourage you to share some of your favorite rituals with me!