Throw pillows, a soft blanket, a steaming mug of tea and a well-loved book…is this your idea of Heaven? Reading is such a lovely escape! Here are some tips for the parent who wants to help nurture a love of reading in even the tiniest baby.
Prep. I’m talking…before your baby even arrives! Visit a bookstore and allow yourself the joyful experience of walking through the children’s section. Choose a few books that jump out at you, maybe find a couple of stories you loved as a kid. Many parents are beginning to ask for books in place of cards at baby showers–this is a lovely way to boost your library and include loved ones in the process. Make sure to have books that bring you joy, not just books that teach lessons or seem educational.
Start Early. You can (and should!) read aloud to your baby as soon as she arrives. During quiet waking moments, snuggle with your child and read whatever feels best to you. These first early weeks may feel really stressful, sometimes moments of quiet intention can help everyone. As your baby develops in the coming months, the concept of reading with you will be as familiar as any other part of her daily routine.
Keep a Routine. Reading can, of course, be an anytime activity. If you intentionally add it into your routine, however, it ensures that no matter what kind of day you’ve had, that shared moment will be there. When we began really setting up a consistent bedtime routine, we decided to include books. After pajamas, but before lullaby!
Make it Accessible. Once your baby begins to explore the world around her, keep some sturdy board books out. As time passes, you can designate a low bookshelf or basket in your main living area as Baby’s Space. This is great for many reasons! I think it is good for children to have their own items they can feel free to touch and mess with. It fosters independence, and gives you some time as well. Felix loves sitting by his shelf and pulling out all the books!
Choose The Right Books. When baby is just a little googly-eyed potato in your arms, you can read her whatever you want. As her eyesight and coordination develop, you may begin to notice books she seems to perk up with. It’s a wonderful feeling–your potato has preferences! Once your baby is crawling around and you’ve set up her own bookshelf, make sure to keep the more delicate “real” books out of her reach. Board books are the key to that first stretch of independent reading.
Make It Fun! Use silly voices, let down your guard when reading. Find books that incorporate touchable elements, like fuzzy panels or flaps to lift. I love the books from Cottage Door Press, they make a number of sturdy flap books with sweet illustrations.
Get Ready for Repetition. One day, your little one will pick up a book and toddle over to you with great intention. Your heart will swell with pride–they want you to read it to them! And you’ll read it. And they’ll thrust the book at you again. Again. Again. Again. Until you never want to see another Eric Carle illustration in your lifetime. Congratulate yourself, you’ve got a little reader! A few thousand more repetitions and she’ll be reading it back to you!
What are your favorite books from childhood? Which books has your own child loved best?