Reading aloud to your baby

Before I had my son, I used to volunteer at a children’s library. Sometimes new parents would ask how early could one read to their children. I’d insist that newborns could be read to from Day 1, and may have naively added that if parents could play classical music when pregnant, why not also start reading to their yet-born kids!

When I was pregnant, I set up my baby’s library in my last trimester. But soon after he was born, all thoughts about reading and books were quickly forgotten in the sleepless blur. I think it was a good three months later that I remembered my own advice and took out a book. Soon the cloth books and board books and textured books were taken out and being “read”. I don’t know at what point we started reading a story at bedtime. Or how and when reading a book became a shared favorite pastime.

My son’s 6 now and can read by himself now but every night, we still make time for a book together, an old favorite or a new discovery. I’d like to believe my read-aloud skills have improved in these years so here goes – a few tips to get you started on reading to your little one!

  1. Choose books that have rhythmic text

It doesn’t have to be rhymes always but alliterative or onomatopoeic words lend themselves to reading aloud. They let you create a beat or play with your voice or add another dimension to your reading. Think words like Splash, Crash or “Beep! Beep! Sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep”. Dr Seuss is a master at alliterative, rhyming text and nonsense rhyme. Julia Donaldson is another great choice for rhythmic stories.

  1. Choose books that use repetition

Kids thrive on repetition. Having a read-aloud that incorporates it is a great way to include them once they can start talking. Books like Where’s Spot? and Brown Bear, Brown Bear do this simply and easily.

  1. Choose books that are not too long

Long stories can tire you and your baby, so to begin with, choose a short read-aloud. Chances are you’ll be asked to read it one more time, and just one more time. So you might as well indulge that request. Books like Room on the Broom, Gruffalo, Paddington Bear are perfect as they have a clear plot line and end well without leaving the reader hanging in ambiguity.

  1. Choose a variety of styles and illustration

As you read to your child, they are looking at the pictures and this is a great time to offer them a great many styles and kinds of pictures. Choose books by Anthony Browne, Axel Scheffler, Oliver Jeffers, Maurice Sendak, Jon Klassen. Keep a lookout for the annual Caldecott (USA) and Kate Greenaway (UK) awards for best illustrators. And don’t forget to try The Book with no Pictures by BJ Novak. It has – spoiler alert – no pictures!

  1. Choose bilingual books

If you are bilingual, choose these books to comfortably switch between languages. It’s a great way to introduce another language to your child. Many cultures come with their own folk-lore and rhymes for children that were originally composed for an oral narration, so they readily lend themselves for reading-aloud.

Aravinda Anantharaman

Aravinda manages content and brand strategy for raybaby. She's a mom to a 6-year old and has been a children's librarian and author.

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