Age-by-Age Guide to Reading to Your Baby

Birth to 12 Months

Birth to 6 months: Since an infant's vision is still developing, choose books with little or no text and big, high-contrast pictures. Also consider books with interactive stuff, such as puppets, mirrors, or peepholes, recommends Pamela High, MD, author of the Brown University reading study and a professor of pediatrics there. The more ways you both have to enjoy a book, the better. If you'd like, read to your baby from grown-up books or magazines too. Comprehending the words isn't really the point with babies this young. For infants, reading is about the tone of your voice and cuddling up to you.

7 to 12 months: Halfway through their first year, babies may begin to grasp some of the words read to them, says Cosby Rogers, PhD, a professor of human development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The most meaningful words are the names and things from their everyday life -- words like "doggy," "mommy," "daddy," "milk," or "bottle."

Books with just one object or person per age are best; hearing you name something he recognizes reinforces your baby's vocabulary and slowly helps him realize that illustrations stand for real things. Point to the pictures he shows interest in. And act out what you read with your face, hands, and voice. Let the baby babble back to you in return, suggests Dr. Rogers. This "conversation" helps him learn to take turns and teaches him about focusing on the same thing as someone else.

One more tip: Because babies this age tend to be hard on their playthings, stick mostly to board books, which can take rough handling and even chewing. Cloth or vinyl books are good too, though turning the pages can be trickier for a baby.

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