How to Read a Book with your Baby

by Sharon Weisz
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It’s never too early to get your baby excited about books! However, reading a book with a baby is not the same as reading with a toddler or an older child. With a toddler or an older child, you may read the words exactly as they are on the page, stopping occasionally to ask questions, make comments, and guess what is going to happen next. With a baby, both the types of books you may choose as well as the way you read them may be quite different.
Here are a list of tips and strategies to help your baby get the most out of the reading experience:


  • Books that are interactive, such as ‘touch and feel’ books, books with flaps, and books that make sounds.
  • Board books with hard pages that are easy to turn and will not tear.
  • Simple ‘first words’ books with big, bright pictures, preferably one picture per page.
  • Repetition – Read the same books over and over again. Babies learn by repetition and they enjoy the familiarity.
  • Routine – Make a routine of reading each night before bedtime in addition to reading throughout the day.
  • Label – There is no need to read all of the words on the page. Instead, point and label the picture(s).
  • Repeat – After labelling the picture, repeat the word multiple times.
  • Wait – Wait to give your baby a chance to think about the word you said.
  • Follow their lead – If your baby points to a picture, label the item and repeat it as he is clearly interested in that particular item.
  • Slow down or speed up – Read at your baby’s pace – If he wants to stay on a page for a long time, stay on the page. If he would like to turn the page, let him do so. If he would like to start from the beginning or go backwards, that is fine too!
  • Give baby a choice – Hold up 2 books and ask ‘which one?’ Then read the book that he pointed to or reached for.
  • Show – If you have any of the items pictured in the book handy, pick one up and show baby that it is the same thing as the item in the book by placing the item beside the picture in the book.
  • Hold the book beside your mouth – If baby is facing you (ex. sitting in a high chair), hold the book up to your face so he can look at your mouth as well as the pictures in the book to see how you form the words.
  • Sing a song – If you know a song about any given item in a book, start singing. Ex. If you see a picture of a dog, start singing “B-I-N-G-O”. If you see a picture of a monkey, start singing “No more monkeys jumping on the bed”. This makes the reading experience more interactive and helps your baby make connections between pictures, words, and songs. Maybe next time he hears those words, he will recall those pictures from the book.
  • Babies go through phases, so there is no need to panic just yet. Some babies are more active and prefer to explore their environment and play with toys. If that is the case, simply place books around the house, particularly in their play areas. They may simply pick up a book and browse through it because it is right there! As they grow, they may show more of an interest in books. In the meantime, remember that babies learn through play so you can stimulate their language development through toys as well as books. Keep a lookout for my upcoming article on language development strategies!
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