Reading For Your Baby – Do Newborns Even LIKE Books?

Reading my baby boy books is something Mum and I always intended to do. In fact, before he was even born, Mum had accumulated a good collection of children’s books; some of her own from childhood and some we bought new from fond memories. Reading for your baby from a young age could be beneficial to their development and create positive associations with books for later life.

Kit has been crawling around and getting himself into trouble for a little while now. He responds to his name, so if he is climbing up the dresser or looks like he’s about to do something silly we try to call him back to us (yes like a puppy) – but usually he just looks and seems to be thinking “So… I could come back to you, or I could chew on this electrical cable? I think I’ll stay, thanks”. Needless to say, we then have to go and fetch him.

However, we’ve noticed that there are a few things that will cause him to come right over. The first is Rusty, our cat. In fact, he can pick Rusty out from across the room, and he can hear him miaow from the other side of the house – this always distracts him from whatever he is doing.

We can’t always use Rusty as a baby-bribe, however. Luckily, there is one other thing which we can present to him that will get Kit scurrying at top speed towards us.

Yes, that’s right – books. For whatever reason, he loves his little Touchy Feely books, the Gruffalo, peek-a-boo friends. We have always read for him, pretty much since he was first born. I think in the first few weeks we didn’t read much, because we were so overwhelmed with the whole fact of being parents all of a sudden. However, we did read to one another.

You read to each other!?

Yeah, of course! It’s not that we’re childish (is it?) – but it helps get to sleep. Kind of like an audio book, but I’m the narrator, doing all of the voices in a flat monotone. No wonder if puts us to sleep!

Anyway, why read to your baby when he’s so young?

Well, let me be clear. I don’t think you have to read to your newborn baby. I know that the common advice is to read to your newborn pretty much from birth. The suggestion is that this, as I said above, creates positive associations with books and encourages reading and literacy later in life.

But think about this for a moment…

Older kids love to read

Your newborn baby, is he listening to you reading? Does he know you are reading? Is the book doing anything whatsoever? Apart from distracting you from your baby, I don’t believe it is doing anything! That’s right – you are looking at and paying attention to a book rather than your baby!

So I SHOULDN’T read to my baby?

Not quite – as I mentioned above, we read to Kit and we have read to him always. But babies, especially teeny tiny babies, thrive on real interaction. They want to see you and be touched and held by you, and, indeed, spoken to by you. So this should take precedence over reading to your baby for the sake of reading.

Having said that, reading can be interactive and fun – we have lots of colourful books, with nice pictures in them; we have books with textured bits; and we have peek-a-boo books.

Kit seems to love all of these, and wants to play with them. He gets to hold them, and chew them, and throw them around – and when we pick them up and read to him, he gets to hear us making silly voices and playing rather than simply reading.

Maybe one of the reasons he likes to come over to us when we have a book is because the book is a toy that we both play with simultaneously.

Bedtime reading

As I mentioned above, we read books to one another at bedtime. I think this is a great way to introduce reading to baby – he sees us not just sitting silently, looking at this strange object, but instead we are looking at this object and speaking in a rhythmic way. It introduces the rhythm and cadence of prose to him, and it introduces new words and sentences to him.

Of course, he’s too young to appreciate this – but at least he will have heard all of The Count of Monte Christo before he is 1. Well, hopefully… it is quite a long book.

He also gets to have a cuddle and a bedtime feed – hopefully this all helps him to calm down and make good associations. As I said, this will introduce him to words and language skills – and it’s much more entertaining for you and Mum than a children’s book!

If you do want to read to baby before bed, you could try this if he is willing to start settling down while one of you reads. Alternatively, you could start introducing a book for baby just prior to bedtime. So long as baby seems interested then I think it can be beneficial.

So, how do I start?

If your baby seems receptive (you will know your baby better than anyone else!), then I think that to begin with, you could read from your favourite books or whatever magazine you’re currently working your way through. I think of this stage as speaking to your baby more than reading to him. A very young baby is probably not going to be interested in the book itself.

However, as baby grows, he will want to play with what you’re playing with – he will certainly want to see bright colours and may be interested in the pictures. At this stage, you could introduce colourful, simple baby books or even cloth books.

Soon after – around 4-6 months – baby will probably want to touch and grab the books. Obviously, paperbacks will suffer from this treatment, so go for cloth books or cardboard books. Touchy Feely books are also a great choice!

You will notice baby starts reacting to your stories as he gets older. Books for older children have more meaty stories in them, or maybe a book of rhyme would be suitable.

Eventually, your baby won’t be a baby anymore – he or she will be choosing their own stories!

Favourite books

You’ll soon accumulate your own list of favourite books. These are ours:

Any of the Touchy-Feely Board Books. Kit loves these because they have patches of textured material and colourful, simple pictures (and, in one special case, a mirror – how he loves mirrors!). Have a look at what’s available here – Touchy Feely Board Books.

The Gruffalo – again, this has marvellous pictures and a story that sounds good, full of rhythm and rhyme. It’s one of my favourites to read to Kit, although I don’t think we’ve gotten to the end in one sitting yet. You can buy a copy here.

The Great Dog Bottom Swap – a sort of allegory about those keys-in-the-fruitbowl parties you hear all about. This is a fun one, suggested by Mum. Get it here!

Final thoughts

I have had a couple of questions about whether an e-reader like a Kindle will suffice as a replacement for a book. After all, The Gruffalo comes on the Kindle! And the Kindle Fire has colour graphics!

Younger children don’t really mix well with tech IMO

However, I think not, at least not in the early days. Baby will want to chew and touch and throw his books – do you want this to happen to your e-reader? But I definitely don’t see a problem with it in the later stages, when reading to baby becomes story time.

The other cool thing about an e-reader or a tablet is they can display videos and animations and have bright colour graphics. So apart from getting covered in babyvom, they certainly have their place.

So that’s all. I hope you found this helpful. Have fun reading to your little one.

Thanks!

Joe