They say that children become readers on the laps of their parents, and although my nerdy English major heart jumps at the prospect of raising a whole bunch of bookworms, there are plenty of other reasons to spend time reading to your kids. Research shows that reading to your baby is one of the best ways to encourage brain development, boost vocabulary, and increase attention span. Pediatricians even recommend reading to children from the time that they are first born, claiming that—though you might feel a bit ridiculous reading to an infant—hearing a variety of words and looking at pictures is oh so good for their little brains.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received about reading to my kids came from their pediatrician. Apart from giving your kids access to lots of books and reading with them frequently, he recommended setting aside a specific time of day (bedtime, morning, naptime, etc.) and designating a few minutes for reading time with your child sitting in your lap as you read aloud and turn the pages, making sure your child sits with you until the book is over. It seemed a bit harsh to me at first, but in my experience this ritual has been so instrumental in connecting with my kids and helping them learn.
My husband and I implemented a bedtime reading ritual in earnest with both of our kids when they were around 9 months old and showed a greater interest in looking at books than throwing or chewing on them .I quickly discovered that many of the picture books I loved and dreamed of reading to my kids were just too long and not visually stimulating enough to hold their attention at such a young age, not to mention the hazard of little hands tearing fragile paper pages! My oldest was and still is such a busybody, so I had to quickly find board books that would hold his interest and make for an enjoyable reading and learning experience for both of us. Below is a sampling of what I’ve found to be some of my favorite books for the littlest readers.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
This Eric Carle classic has been a big favorite with both my kids. The sing-song rhymes coupled with big, colorful illustrations have them glued to every page.
"In My..." Series
This series is a darling way to introduce kids to various animals and their habitats, with the added bonus of a built-in finger puppet to help tell the story. In My Ocean and In My Jungle are both in constant rotation at our house.
First 100 Words
This book is a simple collection of everyday objects, and is such a great way to teach your baby basic words. My 15-month-old loves it, and we spend much of our reading time identifying each picture as she tries to repeat the word. This one is also her favorite to sit and look through on her own.
Boynton's Greatest Hits
Sandra Boynton’s books are such silly fun. Moo, Baa, La La La still sends my 3-year-old into laughing fits. Besides the books in this set, we also love The Going to Bed Book and Opposites.
Touch and Feel Animals
Seems like kids either go for the touch and feel or they don’t. My son didn’t care for them, while my daughter goes bonkers over petting a lamb’s fluffy wool or a puppy’s fur. These are another great option for independent reading and for younger babies.
This has been a surprise hit with both kids. I thought for sure it would be one of those instances where I try to force a “classic” book on them while they squirm and resist, but it turns out that this book is a classic for a reason. Something about the soothing language and alternating black-and-white and color illustrations make for a perfect “wind-down” book before bed, although lately my daughter has taken to reading it on her own as well.
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