Why read to my baby?

By Sonal Mistry,
Early Literacy Specialist,
Parent Resource Centre


Most parents understand the value of reading to their preschooler and read to them on a regular basis. It is a popular addition to a bedtime routine and a perfect way to end the day. But when told that they should start reading books to their unborn baby, most people might think – why?

Why read? 
Between the 26th and 28th week of pregnancy, your baby begins to hear sounds. Children begin to learn language even before they are born. Studies have shown that babies were comforted and showed preference for hearing stories that were read to them during pregnancy.

Reading aloud is an important form of stimulation that will reap a multitude of benefits for your child. Listening to an adult speak or read helps build connections in the brain. The more they hear the spoken word, the more connections will be created.

Research has shown that babies whose parents frequently talk or read to them know 300 more words by age 2 than babies whose parents rarely speak or read to them. Take any opportunity to read to your baby.

Reading aloud

•Stimulates growth of a baby’s brain by creating new neural connections

•Fosters social and emotional development – helps the child learn to communicate, connect with others, resolve conflicts and cope with challenges

•Introduces concepts such as numbers, letters, and colours

•Builds listening, memory, anticipation and vocabulary skills

•Gives babies information about the world around them

•Teaches children about books and how to use them (which way to turn the pages, how to hold a book)

•Encourages  the child to feel  confident to pick up a book and try reading

•Creates positive associations with reading, which will build a successful reader later in life

•Children learn that reading is important and fun

Ages and stages

Babies may not understand the words or the pictures, but they do learn to associate books with quality time with a parent. Babies will enjoy books with simple, large pictures with bright colours and people or familiar objects.

Great books to read with your baby

•Brown bear, brown bear by Eric Carl

•Goodnight moon by Margaret Brown

•I love you through and through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak

•The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carl

•Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney

•In the tall, tall grass by Denise Fleming

•Are you my mother? by P.D Eastman

•Moo by David Larochelle

•Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton


Interactive books

•Press Here by Herve Tullet

•Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

•Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

•Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz

•Peek-a-boo! by Roberta Grobel


At around 6 months, your baby may begin to show more interest in books. They may try to grab a book, put it in their mouth or chew it. Provide them with soft vinyl, board or cloth books with bright colours and pictures.

Between 6 -12 months, your child will begin to show preference for certain books. They may participate by making sounds, grabbing the book, pointing to pictures and, closer to 12 months, may even try to turn the pages.

Between 1-3 years of age, children will enjoy board books with repetitive text. They will choose a favourite book and ask you to read it over and over again. Don’t hesitate to reread your child’s favourite story. They will begin to recognize words and try to read themselves.

Ways to share books with your baby

Read every day: Make reading a part of your daily routines. It is OK to only read a few pages at a time!

Talk about the pictures: You don’t necessarily have to read all the words on the page. Just point and talk about what you both see.

Be expressive! Create voices for the characters and use expressive sounds.

Explore with them: Allow your baby to handle the book and explore it in their own way (provide soft vinyl or cloth books you can clean easily).

Cuddle and make it fun: Cuddling helps your child feel safe, connected and important. This is a great bonding activity!

What to read 

During the first few months of life, your child will simply be happy to hear your voice, so you can read anything, but choosing books with simple pictures and repetitive text will be most beneficial. Books about objects in their environment or daily routines are also great.

Create a small album with pictures of people the child knows – they will naturally be attracted to it and will learn to recognize those people!


Photo: depositphotos.com © evgenyataman