It sounds simple enough.
New parents are often advised by pediatricians, nurses, midwives, aunts, nannies, parents and other assorted well-meaning people to let their baby take the lead. Whether it’s feeding, weaning, crawling, potty training, sleep training or any of the other countless aspects of parenting, we’re often advised to watch and observe if the baby is indeed ready and if he shows interest in what we’re trying to get him to do.
The same rule should apply to reading to your baby too.
Of course, your baby isn’t going to automatically show interest in books or reading if he doesn’t know such things exist. So the best thing you can do to get your baby interested in reading, is to expose him to the concept and introduce him to books. But, once you’ve done that, allow your baby some space and time to ‘find’ books and reading.
But, what constitutes baby-led reading?
- Show her the Way – Yes, it does start with you showing her how to start. Around the age of 7-10 months, babies begin identifying objects and picking them up. So if you leave a few cloth or board books lying around near her, when you ask her to pick a book, she may automatically choose one over others. (She may either be showing preference or simply be making the most convenient choice by picking the book closest to her- either way, she has led the way)
- Read your Baby’s Face As you read, watch her face. Observe what her eyes are looking at, what colors, images or sounds seem to perk her interest. This tells you a great deal about how she is processing information. If she is staring at the picture of a teddy bear for a long time, she’s probably trying to relate to it, figuring out what it’s called or comprehending that it’s a familiar object. So you could point to it and say “Look, a Teddy Bear, just like yours!” When she’s older, you could stop and ask her what it is, or ask her to point to the teddy bear in the picture.
- Allow Your Baby to Enjoy her Book If your baby is observing a page, wait. Allow her some time to absorb the images and texture on the page. If she just wants to feel a certain page with her fingers or explore turning the pages of a book or stare at the cover, let her. There’s no rush to finish reading the book. It doesn’t even matter if you read just one page. If you had your baby’s undivided attention for those few minutes, it’s time well spent.
- Remember Why You Read to Your Baby If your baby starts babbling midway through a book, resist shushing her so you can finish the book. Remember why you started reading to her in the first place? That’s right – to introduce her to language and all that great stuff. So, when she IS trying to form sounds or is pretending to repeat what you just said, enjoy it.
- Encourage her to Choose Books Allow your child to pick out the books she wants to read from the library. You could try this when she’s around 1 or 2 or whenever you think she has the ability to identify pictures and make a choice.
- Know When to Stop When after reading for a few minutes, your baby looks bored, fidgets or tries to shut the book, move on to another book or a different activity.
These are just a few tips to encourage baby-led reading, based mostly on my experience with my daughter. How do you approach reading to your baby?