Reading is an addiction that parents should encourage well before their baby's first birthday. The bonding experience is unbeatable, says Patricia Cowan, national program coordinator for Reach Out and Read, a project that gives children books during medical checkups. When you read to children, they're getting your full attention, and that's what they just love. Nothing -- no TV show or toy -- is better than that.
Reading to babies is also a great way to immerse them in the sounds and rhythms of speech, which is crucial for language development. In a study at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, 18- to 25-month-olds whose parents said they had been reading to them regularly for a year could say and understand more words than those whose parents hadn't. It's hard to prove whether such advantages last, but plenty of parents are convinced that early exposure to books makes a long-term difference, both boosting children's language abilities and making them more eager to learn how to read.
With that in mind, here's an age-by-age guide to getting your kids hooked on books.