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Reading with Kids

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I have a 1-month old. When’s the right time to start reading to her? And is there a “right” way to do it?

If there is one gift that every parent should give his or her child, it’s a love of reading and stories. At this age, you can read just about anything to your baby, from War and Peace to the installation guide to your dishwasher. The goal isn’t to educate, it’s to get her used to the sound of the language and to give make a connection to a peaceful activity.

Children who get read regularly to by their parents have bigger vocabularies, are able to sit still for longer periods of time, and have fewer problems learning to read than kids who don’t have the same exposure to books. Still not convinced that reading to your child is a good thing? Try this: 60 percent of prison inmates are illiterate, 85 percent of juvenile offenders have reading problems, and 44 percent of adult Americans do not read a single book in the course of a year.

Clearly, reading is an important habit to develop, and it’s never too early to start.  It’ll be a while, though,  ‘till you get much reaction from the baby. At about three months, she may start holding your finger while you read to her. 

At four months, she’ll sit still and listen attentively while you read and may even reach out to scratch the pages of the book. At around five months, she’ll probably start to respond to your pointing.  At six months, she’ll respond to what you’re reading by bouncing up and down or chuckling before you get to a familiar part of the story. Look for books with simple, uncluttered drawings as well as poetry and nursery rhymes.

At around seven months, your baby’s grabbing and tearing are now slightly more purposeful, and you may notice an occasional attempt to turn pages. By ten months, she may follow character from one page to the next. At a year, she’ll not only be able to turn one page of her book at a time, but she’ll be able to answer questions like, “What does the duckie say?”

As far as whether there’s a “right” way, the answer is no. Just try to make it a regular part of your baby’s life. If you can set up a special time and place for reading, so much the better. The best reading position for your baby is to sit her on your lap with her back to your chest. Hold the book with your arms around her and read from over her shoulder.

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