When is the best time to read to your baby? Early on and daily! I learned this the hard way with my second little, when we started reading together daily at around 18 months. Along the way, I picked up a few tips on how to select the best books for toddlers.
When to start reading to baby
My oldest and I got in the habit of reading books every. single. day. We started at around 4 months and we went strong for a few years.
Once baby number two came along, I stopped reading aloud every day with my kids. And we didn’t really pick it back up until around a year ago when I noticed that my toddler would walk away or lose interest in what we were reading.
I felt like I totally goofed.
Fortunately, we’ve been able to turn things around and cultivate a solid storytime. But it would have been easier if we had gotten in the habit of daily reading when he was a baby.
And I’m not the only one who thinks this.
The AAP suggests that reading programs, like Reach Out and Read in the United States, work with providers to encourage parents to read to their baby as early as 6 months old. Daily storytime – or, a minimum of three times a week – supports language skills and early literacy.
It’s also a time to strengthen your relationship to your little, which trickles down into language, literacy, and social-emotional skills.
You can start reading to your baby on day one
Getting in the habit of reading to your newborn means that there’s a greater chance you’ll continue to read aloud and share picture books when your little one is older.
Reading with baby also benefits parents, especially if there are extra stressors to juggle.
For example, reading to your little one in the NICU has been found to encourage a reading relationship once baby returns home and comfort parents during a very difficult time.
It’s also worth pointing out that reading isn’t the ONLY thing that builds literacy.
Any activity that supports a child’s ability to listen, observe, imitate, and tell stories helps to build the foundation of literacy.
The 6 best books for toddlers
If you have a toddler and you want to get more reading in, the following six styles of books are what worked for us.
Board books are obviously safer in the hands of babies.
Still, most of my children’s books are hardcover paper books and while we’ve had a few accidents that have required tape, keeping a close eye on books will keep them in one piece.
If your toddler wanders off while reading, keep going – it builds familiarity and repeated stories tend to become favorites.
1. Books with minimal words on each page
If you need to, only read one sentence from the page and then move on. I found that keeping up engagement and building familiarity meant that we could read the *long* version later on.
2. Books you can sing
We love Old MacDonald Had a Truck.
3. Books with sounds
One of the best sound books out there is Squeak Rumble Whomp Whomp Whomp by Wynton Marsalis.
It’s written by a jazz musician, so you know it’s going to be good.
I’m obsessed because how the letters are positioned on the page (high or low) helps indicate how you can read the word. A small and lovely detail, IMO.
Like singing, the shifts in your voice to make sounds will keep baby’s interest piqued.
4. Lyrical books or books with repetition
This list of lyrical books or books with repetition for babies is LONG.
So, I will simply share that my absolute favorite is All The World.
The artwork reminds me of Santa Barbara, a sweet coastal town near Los Angeles. And the message brings everyone together and shows how we’re all interconnected.
The Pout-Pout Fish is another good one that both my kids now know by heart.
5. Books with movement
These books also bring up the mind-body connection, which is ALWAYS a good thing to think about.
6. Books you love too
Fortunately, there are so many amazing children’s books out there. Du Iz Tak (a book written in bug language) is one we’re all obsessed with.
And we just added My Heart to our library, a quick favorite.
So, go ahead and build up your own library. Purchase books, rather than borrow them so that way because my kids love repetition, knowing the words, and hearing the same story over and over again.
How you read also matters
With all the above in mind on what to read, there are a few basic tips to keep in mind on how to read to baby:
- Hold the book so that baby can clearly see pictures
- Point to pictures and name them
- Pause and questions like, “Do you see the frog?” or “What sound does a bird make?”
- Read enthusiastically and with personality, this gets easier with favorite books as you begin to memorize the words
- Track the text with your finger, offer to help baby do the same with their finger