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Books from Day One

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the importance of reading from birth.

‘When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.’  

Mem Fox, Reading Magic

If I could give you just one piece of advice, it would be to read to your child from day one. That might sound a little over the top to some, but it is also SO important. On instinct, I sought out high-contrast books for my first born (now 10) – my husband thought I was crazy, yet fast-forward to the present and he devours books! The floor of his room is literally covered in books and goodness knows how he sleeps because there is barely room with all the books he takes to bed! As I type this right now at 9.45pm on a Sunday night, I’ve actually had to tell him to stop reading and go to sleep!

5 Reasons to read aloud from day one:

1. Reading helps you to bond with your baby.

The fact is, it can sometimes feel super awkward talking to your baby, especially in the beginning when you don’t really get anything back! Baby will just love the sound of your voice so read anything you wish; I’ve read aloud everything from Harry Potter to the newspaper, as well as a choice selection of baby books.

‘The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud, it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.’

Mem Fox, Reading Magic

2. Reading in turn promotes a love for reading

If reading is a normal part of everyday life from the very beginning, then your baby is much more likely to grow up to be a fan of books – take the example of my 10 year old son from the introduction. Reading with expression and enthusiasm will show bub that reading is a fun, joyous activity.

‘I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.’

Roald Dahl

3. Reading helps to develops language skills

Parents who read one picture book with their children every day provide their children with exposure to an estimated 78,000 words each a year. If that is all added up, children from book loving homes will hear a cumulative 1.4 million more words during storybook reading than children who are never read to.

By reading aloud from the start, babies begin to understand the way communication works. They will be observing you speak and have learnt the sounds needed to begin talking themselves by the time they reach their first birthday.

‘The ideal three stories a day are one favorite, one familiar, and one new, but the same book three times is also fine.’

Mem Fox, Reading Magic:

4. Reading books helps to develop the imagination

Some of the best creative writers that I have taught in schools have also been the most prolific readers too. Reading books to children helps to stimulate their curiosity and imagine possibilities beyond what they experience in their daily lives.

‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.’

George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

5. Reading teaches babies social and emotional skills

Reading aloud and with expression helps to foster social and emotional development. The interactive nature of reading allows baby to look, point, touch and eventually ask questions which in turn promotes social development and thinking skills.

‘We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.’

Eric Carle

Ways to read to your baby:

Like any activity you do with your baby, reading is best done when baby is content. If they are hungry, exhausted or have a full nappy (diaper), then they are unlikely to be interested.

It helps to turn reading into part of the routine – perhaps read as a bedtime story or just before nap-time.

Try one of the activities below, or simply cuddle baby on your lap.

What to read?

We are huge fans of interactive books with high contrast images. The Usborne ‘That’s not my…’ series and Nosy Crow, ‘Where’s Mr/Mrs…’ series are particular favourites because of their interactive nature but we also love classics such as ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see…’ by Eric Carle and ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell.

There’s a comprehensive list of all of our favourite baby books for you to check out over on my Amazon storefront. For full disclosure, if you did decide to purchase from the links, I would receive a tiny commission in return.

You might have also noticed a lot of Mem Fox quotes throughout this article. Please go and check out her book – Reading Magic. It’s a great book to download for all of those night feeds and her advice just makes so much sense! You can find the book in the ‘Parenting’ section of my Amazon storefront.

Want more?

Check out the following articles on our website:

How we’re raising readers

The book that turned Mr 9 into a reader

Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is the founder of Teach Investigate Play. She helps parents navigate the early years by providing meaningful and simple activities. She also owns 'Get Set Social Media' - a social media consultancy for small businesses. From the UK, now living in Vienna (via Australia). About page has more!

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