Babies Baby Development Intellectual Growth Age-by-Age Guide to Reading to Your Baby When should you start reading to your baby? Now! Here's the easiest way to get your child in love with reading at a very early age. By Melissa Balmain Updated on May 10, 2023 Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article The Benefits of Reading to Your Baby How to Start Reading to Your Baby Top Books for Infants and Toddlers Photo: NolteLourens/shutterstock.com When should you start reading to your baby? The answer is it is that it's never too early to start. In fact, some parents start as early as pregnancy, and others start as soon as birth. Reading to your baby is a wonderful opportunity to bond, but it's also an impactful way to help your baby build early pre-literacy skills, including a robust vocabulary, and develop a lifelong love of reading. The Benefits of Reading to Your Baby Reading is a healthy habit 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. No TV show or toy is better than that. Research confirms the value of reading to young kids. For example, babies and young children who are not read to at home by a relative will face a "million-word gap" by the time they go to school. That's because reading out loud creates the opportunity for kids to build their vocabulary, and without that precious time to hear, say, and build pre-literacy skills to eventually read those words, they may lose out. But while it is important to read to your child every day, what you read may be equally important. We know that reading to babies and toddlers helps them develop logical thinking as well as pre-literacy, communication, and emotional intelligence skills—and much of that happens by choosing age-appropriate books that challenge your child. Reading to babies is also a great way to immerse them in the sounds and rhythms of speech, which is crucial for language development. Compelling research shows that when parents read to babies under a year old, those same children grow to have larger, more complex vocabularies than their peers by the age of 3. How to Start Reading to Your Baby The research is in: Reading to kids is amazing for their development, and it's never too early to start reading to your baby. With that in mind, here's an age-by-age guide to getting your kids hooked on books. Birth to 6 months Since an infant's vision is still developing, you can start reading your baby books with little or no text and big, high-contrast pictures. Also, consider books with interactive features, such as puppets, mirrors, or peepholes, recommends Pamela High, M.D., professor of pediatrics and author of the Brown University reading study. 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. Here are a few books to read the next time you're snuggled up together: Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo LionniLook! Look! by Peter LinenthalBaby Beluga by RaffiLittle Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver The Benefits of Reading to Your Baby 7 to 12 months Halfway through their first year, babies may begin to grasp some of the words read to them, says Cosby Rogers, Ph.D., 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 they can recognize reinforces your baby's vocabulary and slowly helps them realize that illustrations stand for real things. Point to the pictures your baby shows interest in. And act out what you read with your face, hands, and voice. Let your baby babble back to you in return, suggests Dr. Rogers. This "conversation" helps them learn to take turns and teaches them about focusing on the same thing as someone else. As a practical tip, babies this age tend to be hard on their playthings, so try sticking 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 challenging for a baby. Touch-and-feel type books are super fun, but be sure to avoid any with ribbons, buttons, or other small choking hazards that can easily detach with a good yank. Here are a few board books that are sure to capture your baby's attention: Llama Llama Nighty-Night by Ann DewdneyPat the Bunny by Dorothy KunhardtYou're My Little Baby by Eric CarleWhere Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz 13 to 18 months At this age, you can begin to introduce books with a sentence or two per page. The sillier you are while acting out the story, the better. For instance, if you're reading about animals, make animal noises. Your baby will think it's really funny, Cowan says. Sooner or later, they will "moo" or "baa" back to you, and you'll be ready to fall off the couch laughing together. Invite your baby's participation by asking questions such as "What does the dog say?" or "Do you see the cat?" Ask your baby to point to real-life examples of what's pictured (such as, "Where's your nose?"). At this age, you can show more pictures of things your baby doesn't encounter every day. Also, at 15 to 18 months, your baby may be able to answer questions with a word, so give them the opportunity by asking them, "What's that?" If they answer, you can help boost their vocabulary by expanding on their thought: "Yes, car. That's a big green car." Here are a few great books to get your baby interacting with the story: Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. SeussThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleFirst 100 Words by Roger PriddyBabies Love Colors by Michelle-Rhodes Conway Here's How to Read to Your Kids to Inspire a Love of Books 19 to 24 months Many toddlers find the familiar routine of reading reassuring and calming. The same goes for familiar books. This helps explain why starting at about 18 months, children may ask for the same book over and over and over—and why they won't let you change your reading performance by a single "meow" or "vroom." However, this dogged repetition has a learning benefit as well: Experts think it helps children make sense of and then remember new words. Here are a few books that you might not mind reading over and over again: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John ArchambaultJust Go to Bed (Little Critter) by Mercer MayerBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric CarleKnuffle Bunny by Mo Willems Age-by-Age Guide to Reading to Your Baby More Book Picks for Infants and Toddlers You Might Love When we asked our readers to tell us their baby's favorite book, the titles that got the most mentions weren't surprising: Goodnight Moon and anything by Dr. Seuss, followed closely by Sam McBratney's Guess How Much I Love You. Here are some other raved-about books to add to your wish list: Moo, Baa, LA LA LA by Sandra Boynton: "At under 2 years, my son can recite the entire book just by looking at the pages." —Michelle Speer, Edwardsville, IllinoisJesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom and Time for Bed by Mem Fox: "I've read to my 5-1/2-month-old since birth, and he gets so excited when he sees these books, kicking his feet and waving his arms." —Judy James, Miami, FloridaMaisy's Colors by Lucy Cousins: "My daughter Grace is 11 months old, but she's enjoyed this particular book since about 4 months. I don't know if she likes the mouse or the colors, but it's already completely worn out!" —Catherine BrainerdBig Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown: "My 4-1/2-month-old daughter, Cara, loves Big Red Barn. She even helps us turn the pages." —Sandra Schneider, Berthoud, ColoradoI'm a Little Caterpillar by Tim Weare: "My 8-1/2-month-old son's favorite book is I'm a Little Caterpillar. He finds it so exciting because it has a cute little finger puppet attached." —Denise McKnight, Metairie, LouisianaOn the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier: "I still get chills when I read that one." —Cindy Long, Wellfleet, MALove You Forever by Robert N. Munsch: "It's the most heartwarming book I've ever read." —Gail Denker, Bayside, New York Key Takeaways Start reading to your baby as soon as pregnancy or birth to reap the most benefits of early literacy development. If you missed that early window, don't worry—anytime is a great time to begin a family habit of reading together. Find books that your children enjoy and help them develop a love of reading that will last them a lifetime. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. When Children Are Not Read to at Home: The Million Word Gap. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 2019. Shared Reading at Age 1 and Later Vocabulary: A Gene-Environment Study. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2019. Why Do Little Kids Ask to Hear the Same Story Over and Over?. Front Young Minds. 2017.