When to Start Reading to Your Baby

October 28, 2019

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With so much focus on early literacy programs aimed to encourage children to read, it is surprising there is not as much focus on reading with our babies! We read to them in the womb, and of course read to them when they’re older and can provide feedback or cues they are enjoying the story—but what about newborns and that first year of infancy? Should we read to babies and does it make a difference? I can’t say that I was the best at reading to my daughter when she was a baby. The first book I attempted to read after she was born was Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch—I was an emotional mess and could hardly breathe, let alone make it through the book! So, let’s just agree that new moms (and dads too) start with something light-hearted and hold off with the ‘Love Me Forever’ type of books so that the first experience our babies have with reading isn’t of their parents sobbing their eyes out! 

The Importance of Reading

The benefits of reading to infants are shown in numerous studies comparing literacy scores as children get older. In one study there were 205 families randomized to either an intervention or control group consisting of 5 to 11-month-olds. The intervention group received developmentally appropriate childrens books, educational materials, and advice about sharing books with their children. Results indicated a 40% increase in Child-Centred Literacy Orientation in the intervention group compared to only 16% in the control group. The authors also found that ‘shared reading’ experiences were the best predictor of improved scores and superior to ‘reading aloud’. [1]

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) promotes early literacy development beginning in infancy and continuing until at least Kindergarten. This includes shared-reading activities, pictures, and written words. They also note reading in infancy is associated with better language skills and a healthier interest in reading by school age. Reading with infants can also build nurturing relationships that are essential for cognitive, language and social-emotional development. [2] The Public Health Division with the Government of Canada has the following recommendations for reading with your baby: hold your baby comfortably—this helps your baby get used to reading as a time to be close to you. Follow your baby’s cues for “more” and “stop”.  Point at pictures for your baby and say what you see—this helps your baby learn about things in the book, rock your baby and sing lullabies, nursery rhymes, or other gentle songs. Use different types of books (board books, touch and feel, books with babies’ faces, and books that have different contrasts). [3]

black and white image of baby mobile, reading to baby

Tidbit for your Tiny One

Babies start to track objects placed in front of them at around 6-weeks of age and by 3-months, babies can start to fixate and follow a dangling ball or toy. [4] Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Shared reading leads to better literacy compared to reading aloud
  • Babies start to recognize objects between 6 weeks and 3-months-old 
  • Parents can present pictures as well as words to infants
  • Reading with our babies builds nurturing relationships essential for cognitive, language, and social-emotional development
  • Follow your babies cues for reading and hold your baby comfortably

The following recipe poem is an excerpt from Recipes for Growing Me ~6 months:

sample page from recipes for growing me ~6 months, baby's first cookbook, "H is for...happy baby", happy face character illustration with yellow hair on soft turquoise background with blue handprints and black lettering poem

H is for Happy and Healthy
Everyone knows the greatest wealth
Goes hand in hand with happiness and health
Thank you for giving me the best new beginning
With my wealth of health I’ll always be winning

Beyond Infancy: A special note for the reader

Reading with our babies extends beyond infancy into a whole new magical world. See below for special tips for reading with older children taken from the ‘Healthy Living’ page from the Government of Canada’s website: 

  • Use facial expressions
  • Use different voices for characters in the story
  • Change the tone of your voice (loud, soft, high, low)
  • Use gestures with your hands to add to the drama
  • Add sound effects
  • Pause for your child to be involved with rhyming or familiar words
  • Add a twist to the story or use your child’s name as the main character
  • Make a story about someone or a place that your child knows
  • Talk about the pictures or ideas in the book [5]

Start reading to your baby today! And remember….don’t hog the blog! 
Share it with friends, caregivers or new moms and dads :)

Have a bloomin’ day, 
Sarah & Karen



[1] High, PC., LaGasse, L., Becker, S., Ahlgren, I, Gardner, A. (2000). Literacy promotion in primary care paediatrics: can we make a difference? Pediatrics: Apr: 105 (4Pt 2): 927-34. 

[2] American Academy of Pediatrics. (2014). Council on Early Childhood. Pediatrics, Vol. 134 (2).

[3] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/encouraging-literacy-child-nobodys-perfect.html

[4] Bowman, R. (2016). Assessing vision in a baby. Clinical Skills for Opthalmology, Vol 29 (Issue 93).

[5] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/encouraging-literacy-child-nobodys-perfect.html

P.S. If you’d like to support us, you can buy a book, say hello on Facebook or follow us on Instagram. If you liked this blog, share it with a new mom. Reading this for the first time? Subscribe and receive a complimentary digital download of our ‘Love Me Forever’ Digital Print.

Bonus: Want to learn more and share baby’s first cookbook? Use code BLOGHOG to enjoy 15% OFF your purchase of Recipes for Growing Me ~6 months! 

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