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Reading Effectively to Newborns

Do newborn babies really benefit from being read to? Even though you probably hear all of the time that reading to newborn babies is crucial to their development, it does seem a little counterintuitive. I mean, c’mon, brand new babies are barely ever awake, and even when they are, they don’t really seem like the most interested audience for a book. Combine that with the fact that newborns’ eyes aren’t even fully developed, and it seems even crazier to assume that reading would have any type of lasting effect.

I’ve been reading a book, by Judith A. Schickedanz and Molly F. Collins, called So Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Phases of Reading and Writing, and it gives some really good ideas about what and how to read to your newborn baby to make it really worthwhile.

According to the book, babies this young (birth to three months) “do not yet have fully developed visual acuity, and therefore prefer images with high contrast and large shapes and patterns.” In addition, they tend to prefer pictures of human faces over other objects. So, books like Tana Hoban’s black and white books and Margaret Miller’s baby-faces books are perfect for the tiniest of tots. Another great idea the book suggested is making your own book of faces at home using a binder with plastic sleeves or a photo album and putting in your own photographs. If your baby is going to be looking at books of people’s faces, why not make them faces of familiar people?

In addition, most books for young babies don’t typically have many words to read. That’s okay; adding your own words to go along with the book “promotes language development, because it connects the sounds of our language with the objects, actions, or attributes to which the language refers.” Plus, since newborn babies don’t yet see pictures well or understand the meanings of words, it doesn’t matter what is read as much as that they are read to. Even just reciting nursery rhymes or singing songs is really effective for babies of this age.

Finally, take cues from your baby to decide when to move on to something else. It’s important to make your child’s first interactions with books positive ones!

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