by Anya Dunham, PhD
Books to read to your baby that have lovely text and illustrations.
You have probably heard that it’s important to read to your child, and that starting early promotes learning and future academic success. Indeed, it is never too early to share a book with your baby, although not necessarily with academic success in mind.
It will take your baby a few months to begin comprehending some of the words, and quite a few more months to begin understanding the sequences of events and following storylines. But even very young babies enjoy the closeness with a family member, repetition, and experience with sounds that comes from reading and looking at a book1 — all of which benefits cognitive and social-emotional development. Reading with your baby is one of the best baby activities.
By 6 months, babies understand a number of common nouns and are beginning to put words into categories. Learning words requires matching sounds with objects or events they represent, so repeatedly hearing words in context (“Look at the dog!”) helps babies learn them. It is especially beneficial when parents notice what babies are interested in and label these objects or events: it helps babies relate what they’re looking at with the words they’re hearing.2
Reading during the first year is not yet about content, so there’s no need to read from cover-to-cover or in the correct order. Books with only a few words or with no words at all — for example, touch-and-feel board books and books with colourful illustrations of everyday objects — are great to explore with your baby. You can simply point at pictures and talk about the objects and the colours. So short, simple, positive stories are wonderful options. My babies enjoyed books that depicted babies, animals, and everyday objects and events they could recognize.
That being said, your baby will be happy to look at the same books for several years, so you may want to choose, from the start, some stories you and your baby will enjoy reading together later on. I found that reading books I enjoyed looking at and reading - books with meaningful text and lovely illustrations - made the experience sweeter.
Here are some of our favourites.
• All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee
• Counting Kisses – and other books by Karen Katz
• Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
• Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
• The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc
• No Matter What by Debi Gliori
• Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
• Time for a Nap – and other books by Phillis Gershator
1. Rosenkoetter S, Barton L (2002) Bridges to literacy: early routines that promote later school success. Zero to Three 22(4): 33-38
2. Bergelson E, Aslin RN (2017) Nature and origins of the lexicon in 6-mo-olds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(49): 12916-12921
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