Read to baby better

Get the most out of reading to your child with these expert tips.

Reading together with your baby or toddler has enormous benefits. It introduces her to new words and conveys the importance of books and literacy—and research shows that early exposure to reading will improve her chances for school success in later years.

There is no “right way” to read to your baby or toddler, but here are some ideas for getting the most out of your shared reading experience:

Try to make time for reading, even for just a few minutes. Establishing a regular reading routine gives your child a special time to look forward to each day.

Let your child set the pace. The best way to foster a love of reading is to focus on the parts of the book that are most interesting for your child. Sometimes your child will want to go slow, and other times fast. Sometimes your child may want to start in the middle of the book, or just look at favorite pages. Other times your child may want to spend time just touching and discovering the sounds and sights on a single page.

Keep your child’s attention span in mind. At this age, your baby can pay attention for only a short time, so she may not listen to a story from beginning to end without interruption. When you let your child choose the pages, focusing on a few pages with lots of large, colorful pictures, you work within your child’s attention span.

It’s OK to make mistakes. Don’t worry very much about how you read. The idea is to share the story and enjoy the experience together. Just being close to you and hearing your voice creates a comforting environment for your child.

Be a role model. In the early months, your child communicates by imitating you. Encourage this imitation by bringing your face close to your baby’s face when you read a story. Choose a focal point on every page and react with exaggerated facial expression or an exclamation like, “Wow!” or “My goodness!” If your child doesn’t join in right away, be patient. Your baby learns simply by watching you, and will catch on soon enough.

Add gestures. Liven up familiar songs by adding movement and gestures while you read. This gives your child a non-verbal way to communicate with you, and adds another element of fun to your story time experience.

Grin and bear it. When your child latches on to a favorite story, you’ll know it. Repeating the same story over and over again provides your child with more chances to learn the words, understand the story and develop long-term memory skills. Read that all-too-familiar book with enthusiasm, and pay attention to how much more your child knows each time you do.