Reading to Babies


Reading aloud to a baby or little child is a wonderful bonding experience but did you know that it’s also the start of the learning-to-read process?

dad reading to babyMany people think that learning to read is something that happens when their child starts school but learning to read actually starts much, much earlier than this. In fact, the learning-to-read process starts at birth when babies start to tune in to the sounds and rhythms of spoken language and it continues as they acquire language skills.

There is a huge amount of evidence to show that reading aloud to children when they’re young plays a vital role in helping them acquire language and vocabulary. Parents and other people who love the new baby begin talking to this new little person from the time he or she is born and reading aloud can begin straight away too.

The fact that newborn babies are capable of responding to books sometimes surprises parents. Yet the evidence that reading to babies is important for their development is absolutely rock-solid.

In a nutshell, reading aloud plays a vital role because it helps develop three critical pre-reading skills:

  • phonological awareness;
  • background knowledge
  • vocabulary;

Phonological awareness in particular is an important and reliable predictor of a child’s later reading ability.

If you’d like to read more about phonological awareness – what it is and why it matters – click here.

There’s also some fascinating information here about how reading aloud to babies who are born prematurely or who are ill and have to stay in hospital can help the babies and their parents.

So reading to babies and young children is important but where do you start?

Reading aloud comes naturally to some people but if you haven’t done it before it can feel a bit weird or even embarrassing. It’s something we usually don’t have any experience with until we have our own children so it can be hard to know how to begin.

Mem Fox’s fantastic little book Reading Magic is fun to read and is packed with practical tips and advice about how to read aloud. There’s a copy in each of our book baskets so the new mum and dad can read up on the hows and whys of reading aloud to their baby.