Raising a Bookworm

Look beyond toys and videos. A better brain booster is a good book.

Lifetime Literacy

After growing up in a house overflowing with books, I thought it was only natural that my daughter, Piper, would share my love of reading. But my vision of sharing treasured stories as we cuddled in an overstuffed chair quickly disappeared when the books failed to hold her attention. She seemed to enjoy tearing the pages more than listening to the story. I didn't want to deprive her of a love of reading -- something I felt had shaped my own life. I wondered: What's the best way to encourage a love of books in babies?

After all, children exposed to books early on tend to become better learners and earlier speakers. "Books really do make a difference in children's speech," says Perri E. Klass, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Boston University Medical Center and medical director of the nonprofit agency Reach Out and Read. "Studies show that kids who've been exposed to a great deal of language, who've been read to regularly, who've grown up in homes rich in books and print, are more likely to arrive at school age with the prereading skills of book handling, storytelling, knowing the letters in the alphabet, and counting to 20."

However, when your child is very young, reading is primarily about bonding, not building IQ; the language boost your child gets is a bonus. The act of reading itself is a chance to slow down and spend time together. It's that connection that's behind instilling a lifetime love of reading in children. So don't worry if she'd rather mouth the pages than follow the story for now. Instead enjoy the one-on-one time.

To get you started, here's an age-by-age guide to coaxing your little one into the literary world.

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