Your young infant is not exactly equipped for books. A newborn can barely hold his head upright and his eyesight is fuzzy at best, both of which prevent him from focusing on the pages. He also can't see in color until about 4 months. Because his vision is still developing, look for books with high-contrast visuals: bold primary colors, black-and-white patterns (stripes, checks, or polka dots) and geometric shapes. Babies are drawn to brightly colored, uncluttered illustrations. They also love to look at faces -- especially other babies' faces.
In the newborn phase, it's really exposure to his parents' voice that attracts a baby's attention and stimulates intellectual and cognitive growth, says Dr. Klass. A baby's mind is like a sponge -- designed to soak up language and sounds long before he utters a single word.
Because they're captivated by sound, rhythmic, repetitive prose can be particularly engaging to infants. "I just got a great book called The Little Big Book for Moms -- it has fairy tales, poetry, and nursery rhymes, plus songs to sing," says Susie McGrath, of San Francisco, who has just started reading to her new baby, Collin. Jennifer Rosenberg, of Eugene, Oregon, a mom of one with another baby on the way, acts out the stories by using different voices. "You can make anything interesting by reading with inflection and variety," says Rosenberg. "And I'm not afraid to look silly -- babies love silly!"
In fact, at this age it almost doesn't matter what you read from -- your favorite magazine, the latest paperback thriller, or the sports section. "When I read to my kids, I would even read the title page and copyright information. They liked the sound of my voice just as much," says Barbara Needham of Hanford, California. Sallie Han, from Oneonta, New York, admits that the books she chooses for reading time aren't exactly traditional; they run the gamut from baby books to philosopher Bertrand Russell's The Conquest of Happiness.
And reading is such a wonderful bedtime ritual that it's never too soon to start. Han and her husband have traded off reading Goodnight Moon every night to their 8-month-old daughter, Sabrina, since she was was 3 months old. "As far as I'm concerned," says Han, "this is really about quiet time together."
What to Read: 0 to 6 Months
- Baby Faces by Margaret Miller
- Happy Baby Animals by Jo Douglass and Neville Graham
- Red, Blue, Yellow Shoe by Tana Hoban
- Where's Spot? by Eric Hill