(BPT) – Four-month old Lily Campos sits on her father’s lap, one chubby hand in her mouth, the other patting the farm animals in the book in front of her. As the pages turn, she reaches for the pictures, squealing and gurgling with excitement as her father reads.
The Campos family’s biggest reader also happens to be its littlest. In fact, Lily’s parents have been reading to her since the day they brought her home from the hospital.
Are there really benefits to reading to babies? Absolutely.
Early literacy skills begin in infancy. Reading to your baby is critical to setting your child on the path to strong reading skills, a better vocabulary and success in school – and life.
Here are five reasons reading to your baby is a must.
1: Exposure to language
“Reading, singing and talking with your baby gives them exposure to language. All of these things contribute to language development,” says Dr. Elanna S. Yalow, chief executive officer of KinderCare Early Learning Programs.
Books provide great opportunities for babies to hear the richness of the spoken word and learn that the letters, words and pictures you point to all have meaning. Reading is about more than paging through books. It’s about learning to experience a world that is filled with and defined by words.
2: Closing the word gap
Did you know that your child will have most of her foundation for language development by 8? Or that a rich vocabulary is directly connected to a child’s ability to think, follow directions, express thoughts and navigate social interactions?
“The first year of a child’s life is the most critical period for the child’s ability to learn language,” says Dr. Yalow, who attended a Summit at the White House about solutions for closing the Word Gap.
The term “Word Gap” was first coined in 1995 when research found that children exposed to fewer words are at risk for poor early literacy skills, which can have an impact on future academic, social and economic success.
“This issue is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents start reading to their children right at birth,” she says.
3: Repetition is powerful
Babies love to hear the same stories over and over (and over) again. Knowing that something is always hiding behind the flap or that favorite pictures are always in the same spot provides valuable learning opportunities, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This predictability reinforces the idea of cause and effect and helps young children feel capable and in control of some of the larger world around them.
4: Benefits beyond the book
Reading not only helps your baby connect words on the page with real-life concepts. It also helps babies build connections essential for later success.
Asking questions, naming objects in the book that your baby points to and creating open-ended, back-and forth-exchanges are called “serve and return” interactions. This develops neural pathways in the brain and support language, literacy, cognitive, social and emotional development.
5: Snuggle time
Reading with your baby means more bonding time. This physical and emotional closeness also helps your baby make a connection between what she loves most—you, your voice and being near you—with books. When children associate closeness, happiness and excitement with books, they’re more likely to correlate books with positive experiences. What a great way to create the readers of tomorrow.
Whether it’s the gardening tips from the morning paper or Goodnight Moon, reading with your baby will positively impact learning, social and emotional development and form the foundation of literacy for years to come.
Here are some great books to read to your baby:
* First 100 Words, by Roger Priddy 2011
* Baby Faces, by DK Publishing 1998
* Touch and Feel Farm, by DK Publishing 2011
* Global Babies, by Global Fund for Children 2007