Developing a Baby's Love of Reading
What can a child learn from books as an infant or toddler?
There are endless benefits from reading to your child. As an infant, your child will love listening to the tone and rhythm of your voice and looking at the pictures you point to and identify. Your child will enjoy looking at and holding picture books, even if he or she is not yet able to actually follow the story. And, in addition, books expose your child to vocabulary, word use, and picture identification—all of which foster language development. Listening to stories also helps to focus and lengthen your child's attention span, while your child tries to make sense of the story and expand his or her imagination by guessing what comes next.

How does reading now help later in life?
In addition to language development skills, reading acts as an emotional outlet for readers. Books can provide a child with a way to deal with intense emotions and fears. It puts those concerns into words and offers them comfort in learning about characters in similar situations.

Does reading to my child at an early age help prepare them for school?
Reading to your child regularly from the earliest age and through the years is one of the best ways you can encourage the love and value of books. This is also a wonderful preparation for school. Introduce a variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, poems and rhymes. Introduce your child to the many uses of books, such as following recipes in books to make fun things to eat, or looking up information about animals. Providing such opportunities to explore all kinds of books and enjoy reading at an early age will give your child a positive experience and a strong foundation for future learning.

How can I encourage my child to be a lifelong reader?
Children learn to be lifelong readers from their adult role models. So, be sure you read often, both on your own and to your child. When your child sees you reading and enjoying a book, you are providing a positive message about the important role that reading has in your life. Introduce your child to the local library and make trips there regularly to see the various types of books and the multitude of subjects available. Books can take you into a king's castle, swimming with a school of fish or into outer space! You can go anywhere!

What should I look for when choosing books for my baby?
For this age range, make sure you select books with engaging pictures. Pictures in books provide an opportunity for babies to relate what they are seeing and hearing to themselves and the world around them. Also, look for books with interesting textures or features that encourage an interactive play pattern. This interactive element will help bring the book to life, encourage repeat reading and reinforce learning.

What can I do to make reading fun?
Interact. Vary the tone of your voice. Read with expression. Show that you are enjoying sharing this time together. Aside from just reading the words, ask you child to point out items on the page or to mimic the noises made by the animals in the story. Play dress up and act out the storylines or sit together and write a new book together as co-authors! The point is to make reading a fun experience that your child will want to repeat again and again.
Kathleen Alfano Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®