Read with Me: Advice for Reading with Infants
Reading with your baby can have long-term and profound impacts on growth and development as well as deepening relationships and connections. Research shows that benefits of reading with your baby start right away, so incorporating reading into your daily routine is key.
Keeping in mind that all reading and exposure to language is beneficial, we want to share some of our favorite tips and suggestions for creating a routine and environment that your baby will love.
You can find some of our favorite books for babies at our Bookshop page.
Make books accessible: Put books in places where babies can reach them and in as many rooms as possible. This gives them opportunities to explore, and shows them that reading is valuable.
Give choice: Giving babies a choice about which book to read increases engagement. By around 6 months, research shows that many babies who are read to frequently can choose between two books. Pay close attention to their cues. Before they are able to tell you, they may show you by focusing their eyes on one book or making a gesture, like tapping a book.
Rotate books: Read the same group of books for a month, then switch books and rotate new ones into the mix. This helps babies develop familiarity and focus. You don’t need to have a lot of books or own books to make this possible. Take advantage of Little Free Libraries, local libraries, and organizations like ours that help get books into the hands of children.
Think aloud: Model the behavior you want your baby to emulate someday. As you read, you may use your finger to point to each word and to point out things in the pictures. Label what you see in the pictures, and narrate what you’re thinking about the story and what might happen next. Don’t be afraid to change the words to make the story more appealing and enjoyable for your baby. For bilingual babies, you can also use books to tell your own story in whichever preferred language. Simply thinking aloud and providing context goes a long way!
Make it fun: The best way to encourage your baby to love reading is to show them you enjoy it too. By using silly, expressive and different voices, making gestures, and singing stories, you can capture your baby’s attention and have fun, too. There’s hardly anything better than making a baby smile and laugh.
Balance routine and spontaneity: We know that babies thrive on routine, so incorporating reading into specific parts of their day has a lot of benefits. Many parents opt to read before putting their baby down for a nap or bedtime at the end of the day. Keeping books accessible though means that your baby may gravitate towards books at another time, too. If they do this, it's a great time to take their cue and begin a reading session. Books can also be used to reset during a challenging time, reaching for a favorite story and diving in may be helpful for both baby and caregiver.
Reading with your baby can become one of the most joyful parts of your day (and theirs!), but it does take flexibility and persistence. At first, they may be passive participants but you’ll slowly notice their engagement increase until one day, they may point out familiar things and fill in words as you read. They will continue to use all their senses when reading and exploring books, so don’t get discouraged if they’re more content gnawing on a book or flipping through the pages at first. By continuing to offer reading opportunities and paying attention to their cues, you can find a rhythm that supports their curiosity and nurtures a foundational love of reading.
When it comes to selecting books to read with your baby, we have some advice:
Rethink the classics: reading a book from your childhood can be wonderfully nostalgic, so we don’t want to discourage you from sharing a book you love with your baby. However, more recently published books are often more authentic and inclusive. We want our readers to develop an honest perspective of the world around them.
Representation matters: select books that your infant can relate to and see themselves in, while also selecting books that feature characters, cultures and experiences dissimilar to their own. Both types of books are important and create a more well-rounded and authentic reading experience.
Durability and texture: babies explore books with their senses, so select durable books, like board books (we also love Indestructibles!), and a few that have mirrors, textures and high-contrast colors. We encourage you to skip the books with buttons, lights and other bells and whistles.
Baby-friendly: you might think this sounds silly, but there are a lot of board books out there that aren’t actually baby friendly (it’s true!). These types of books have long passages, and are often favorite picture books that have been converted into a board book. Instead, look for books with short, rhythmic and lyrical sentences, and ones with a lot of sounds (Vroom! Moo! Beeeep!). These are the books your baby will actually love.
Familiar topics and themes: select books on topics your baby is familiar with and interested in, like ones featuring animals and real photographs of baby faces and babies doing “baby things.”
Don't forget to check out our Bookshop page for recommendations on starting your baby’s first bookshelf.