The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Newborn Baby

When Savannah Bee first came home from the hospital, I started researching ways for dads to bond with their newborn. I wrote a blog on my findings and you can click on this link to learn more: New Dads

I found several things dads can do to bond with their baby right away from skin to skin, getting up in the middle of the night for feedings, getting involved with the pediatrician and breastfeeding appointments, and my favorite, reading aloud to your newborn baby. I wanted Sav to know my voice and be comforted around me. I thought of reading as a soothing activity we could do as part of our bedtime routine. I had no idea that reading aloud to your baby actually had benefits, I was just looking for a memory we could share as Sav got older and a way for her to become familiar with her dad right now.

You can imagine I was thrilled to discover there are several benefits to reading to your newborn baby. Savannah and I have been reading Harry Potter since the day she was born. I have gotten away from reading to her every night but preparing this blog post has made me want to get back to trying to read to her every day. Harry Potter is one of my favorite book series and I love how the books are meant for children, albeit probably a little older than Savannah. After researching this topic, I realized I should probably find some books with pictures and stories that we can talk about a little easier. I will have to do that and keep everyone in the loop on what books I find. If you have any ideas, please let me know in the comment section!

I’ve put together some helpful information and resources here all in one location to help you learn the importance of reading to your baby and why starting early is important.

The Benefits

Reading to your newborn baby lets baby hear different emotions and expressions while developing their social queues. This helps baby eventually learn to interact with you as you read by laughing, hiding in fear, touching and looking. Babies begin to develop their language skills by copying sounds and putting words together with pictures. The best part is your newborn baby will associate your voice with bonding and comfort towards you, the reader. According to KidsHealth from Nemours, here is a list of things reading aloud helps baby with:

  • Baby learns how and about communication
  • Introduces baby to concepts such as shapes, sounds, colors, letters, and numbers
  • Builds skills such as vocabulary, memory, and listening
  • Teaches newborn babies about their environment

My favorite thing this article says is that reading aloud to your newborn baby can help turn your baby into a little reader themselves someday! Of course if little Savy Bee doesn’t enjoy reading, I would be fine with it… but I would love it if she loved to read like I do!!

Quality of the Reading

Here is an interesting post on Psychology Today that shares some insight on a research study done by Carolyn Cates and her colleagues. Cates researched a number of items including the quality of the reading. The article describes quality as discussing the book itself, pointing to the pictures, and discussing the emotions and characters in the story. Her findings adjust for socioeconomic differences and other confounding variables show that how often and the quality of book reading both predict the size of a child’s vocabulary and early reading skills with quality being the most important factor.

It’s fascinating to me that the quality of what we read together is going to help Savannah learn and develop skills at such a young age. I know I wanted to read so that we could find out way to bond together, but now I want to get some books for her that are going to help her learn. We can keep reading Harry Potter too, it’s a staple for children of any age. I will stop and talk to her about the characters as we go and if I must, I’ll skip the scary parts the first couple times through. I am excited to start looking for some good children’s books online and starting a little collection for Savannah. 

How to Make Reading Aloud to Your Baby Fun and Easy

When I first started reading to Savannah it was easy. She sat in my arms and slept the entire time! Which makes me laugh when I look back, I always sort of knew that reading to her was just as much for me as it was for her. Plus, I love the Harry Potter books so I was really looking forward to reading those a second time. Savannah is still only three months old, but I’ve noticed a lot of changes during reading time, which takes place during her nighttime routine on the nights that we do read. She normally cries or squirms or does what Alex and I like to call “planking” which is when she makes her body go stiff and becomes flat like a board. As much of a bummer as it can be for me, I can tell that she isn’t excited for reading time at this age. I do the little tricks with movements that Alex and I have experimented with to help soothe her and then once she has calmed down, I begin to read to her again. A few pages later, she is fast asleep.

In case you are just starting out with reading aloud to your little one or you’ve tried but your little one doesn’t seem interested just yet, here are some helpful tips to help make reading aloud to your newborn fun and easy.

Your baby loves the sound of your voice, so make sure you are in a room with no distractions. Turn off the T.V. or your iPad Netflix show (Alex!). Find a reading spot where you typically have success and then try to come back to that same spot each time every day so baby starts to learn this is a place for comfort.

Babies have really short attention spans. They are learning things all the time. You might think this is a great time for something easy like reading but baby might be totally excited about something they’ve just discovered on the floor for the first time. If your baby seems too distracted, you can try another time.

Choose quality books. Books with pictures and bright colors. Newborn babies generally up to the age of six months can still be developing their vision. They see things with a bit of a blur, so they typically get more excited about big contrasts in black and white.

Repeating words or a singing a song will help baby develop their language and build positive emotions about reading and singing. Find something short and easy and read it often.

Here is a link to help you learn more about the benefits of reading to your baby, including some helpful reading tips.

Benefits for Each Age Group

All of this research has made me realize I need to get those chunky board books for Savannah, preferably with soft fabric inside. I may have picked a book a little too advanced!

This last article by Zero to Three, a parenting resource talks about the benefit of beginning to read aloud to your newborn the moment they are born. It also provides a helpful chart with different ages and stages newborn babies go through and the benefits of each stage.

I especially liked the reminder in here that yes, reading is really telling your child stories and you can make storytelling happen anytime. You can tell your baby a story throughout the day, during meals, diaper changes, even the morning when your baby is first waking up. Alex and I like to constantly talk to Savannah about what we are doing as we are doing it and talk her through each decision we make. These are the moments that help build those valuable connections as baby starts to grow and develop their own language and vocabulary.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please leave a comment in the comment section below or reach out to Alex and I on The Fox and the Bee Instagram page if you have any tricks for making reading time with your baby fun!

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