Why read books to babies? Usborne Editorial Director and children's book author Felicity Brooks describes some of the ways babies benefit from books long before they're old enough to read.
Here are Felicity's top tips:
Reading books to your baby is the perfect way to make sure you’re talking and helping them to develop vital pre-language skills. There are plenty of books which are suitable, even for tiny babies – anything with high contrast pictures is great for the first weeks, such as Baby's Very First Black and White Books.
As babies start to reach out and coordinate their hands, they will enjoy feeling different textures. Look for books with touchy-feely patches (e.g. That's not my unicorn... from the bestselling That's not my... series). Small children often want to look at the same book again and again. Let them – like any new skill, learning to talk requires practice and that means hearing the same sounds and words over and over.
As you’re sharing a book, point to things on the page and talk about what you see. ‘Look, there’s the moon!’, ‘That one’s got a hat on’, ‘the bee goes buzzzzz’—it doesn’t really matter what you say, as long as your baby can hear you speaking. When they get a bit older, and they’ve heard the words plenty of times, they’ll start to understand what you’re saying.
Choose books with plenty of repetition (such as Are You There Little Bunny?), so that children know what to expect each time they read them. This will help them to understand how a book works and gives them the satisfaction of knowing what will happen next. Eventually, they’ll make the connection between what’s on the page and what you’re saying.
Sharing books of rhymes and songs is a great way to introduce babies and toddlers to the patterns of language and the way that words work. Children can practise pronunciation and rhythm; widen their vocabulary and improve speaking and memory skills. Many also introduce early learning concepts such as counting, time and the weather in a fun way.