The Effects of Reading to Infants
Reading and the Link Between Language Development
We’ve all heard the saying, “start them young.” These days, the starting point for formal education is getting younger and younger. People are buying computer coding books for babies and sending three-year-olds to prestigious preschools for $43,600 a year. But don’t worry. One of the best head starts you can give your baby is a lot cheaper: reading to them.
That may sound like common sense, but there’s a lot of science behind the practice of reading to babies. And with science comes questions. Why is reading important? How young should you start? How much time should you spend per day? Do you really have to read Goodnight Moon for the thousandth time? The following information should help you answer all these questions for yourself, while encouraging you in your choice to do what’s best for your child.
Why is reading to infants important?
Studies have shown that there’s a clear link between reading and language development. The more babies hear language being used, the more their brains are stimulated. The more they are stimulated, the more likely they are to start speaking at a healthy age. Establishing this routine when they are young also makes it more likely they’ll enjoy reading when they’re older, because they associate it with valuable family bonding time.
Outside of academics, there are also several emotional benefits to reading to babies. Babies in the womb begin to hear at 18 weeks. By seven or eight months’ gestation, they can recognize their mother’s voice from other voices, and they respond to it by calming down and lowering their heart rate. For newborns, hearing their mother’s voice is one of the only familiar constants they have in this new world outside the womb, and it can have a powerful calming effect on them. Reading to infants provides emotional benefits to the parents as well. Babies aren’t the only ones going through major life changes in the time after their birth, and reading has been shown to provide parents with a much-needed sense of control, intimacy and normalcy with a newborn.
How should you do it?
There’s no exact recipe for healthy infant reading habits; the most important thing is that you do it, and do it while they’re still young. Click to Tweet
How young is up to you. If you want to start before they’re born, go ahead. If you want to wait until you can physically hold them in your arms, that’s good too. If you get tired of reading baby books, feel free to read from one of your books, magazines, or newspapers. They’ll develop language skills and bond with you regardless of the content. Both you and baby should enjoy this time, and you should do whatever you need to do to make it not feel like a chore.
Lariviere, Janice and Janet Rennick. “Parent Picture-Book Reading to Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as an Intervention Supporting Parent-Infant Interaction and Later Book Reading.” Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 32(1). Jan. 2011. Web. 1 June 2018.
Marx, Viola and Emese Nagy. “Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch.” Public Library of Science 10(6). 8 June 2015. Web. 1 June 2018.