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  • Writer's pictureDianne Pede

Reading to Babies and Toddlers: It's never too early or late to start!

This is the first of my monthly newsletters focused on developing a love of reading. I hope you find it affirming and helpful.

Language skills begin to develop when a child is born. The ability to communicate by listening and speaking is the foundation for a child’s reading and writing skills.

“What?” you might be saying. “I can barely change a diaper and this woman is telling me to work on my two-hour old baby’s language development. Is she serious?”

Yes, I’m definitely serious. The good news is that you have been building language skills since the moment your precious gift was born, without knowing it. Hint, if you looked your baby in the eye and spoke to them, you’re a natural.

Some of you may have a two-week old, or two-month old bundle of joy. You protest. My days and nights are reversed. Getting a shower in is a miracle, or I’m crying more than my baby and definitely don’t have the time, energy, or brain capacity to even think about building a strong foundation for reading and writing.

I’m here to tell you it can be done. You are already doing it, and haven’t given a second thought to how amazing you are.

These four tips are fun and easy to weave in throughout your day, even if you haven’t showered since the last full moon.

1. Look into your little one’s eyes often, especially when you talk and sing to them. Keep looking into their eyes when they communicate with you, whether it’s babbling, crying, or saying words and sentences in the same language as you.

2. Sing cute and silly songs, say cute and silly rhymes. Nursery rhymes should be your best friend.

3. Talk to and with your child about anything and everything, even if they’re not yet able to talk back. (Don’t worry that skill peaks at about age 13.) Ask them questions. Answer the questions out loud when they’re too young to do it themselves.

4. Read, read, read, several times a day if possible. If you’re a first-time parent, you will soon experience the joys of reading the same books over and over and over again. While this may not be good for you, the repetition is excellent for your child and their language skills. When your baby is under six months, they will probably try to eat the book, but there are cloth ones and plastic ones for that. Thick board books are made to hold up to the perils of toddler readers. By six months, many babies are ready for a bedtime routine that involves reading.

By now, you are probably saying, I already do many of those things. Congratulations, you are on the right track! Some of you may be wondering what else you can do. My advice, do more of the same. Communicate with your child as often as possible. That might mean shutting off your computer or phone. (Sorry, the truth hurts. I need to hear it sometimes too.)

Here’s a quick checklist to see how you are doing.

Caregiver Action

Almost Always

A Decent Amount

Working on it

I frequently talk to my child while making eye contact throughout the day.

I frequently make eye contact and listen to my child throughout the day.

I sing to/with my child throughout the day.

We read together several times throughout the day.

I chant poems and nursery rhymes to/with my child throughout the day.

I remember to enjoy these precious moments.

I would love to hear from you about your family's shared reading adventures, mishaps, and celebrations! Feel free to leave comments below or touch base with me on social media and email.

Now head off and love every second communicating with your precious chi

lFor more information, check out the links below from KidsHealth.

“Reading Books to Babies”

2. “Toddler Reading Time”

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