Reading to a child is one of the greatest gifts you can give them! When you start reading to your child in their infancy and through their preschool years, it creates a love for reading and gives them a jump start on their language skills. By setting aside time to read to your child each day, you are giving them the gift of a special, one on one snuggle time, which creates a nurturing relationship. When you read to your child, you are showing them that reading is fun and exciting because it opens up a new world to them where they get to see and hear exciting new things through stories. The nurturing relationships you build while reading are also important to the child’s cognitive, language and social-emotional development. Reading helps their brain development on so many levels!

There is a great deal of new research being done on brain development in infancy. “New brain research reveals that synapses, the connections between neurons, are twice as plentiful at 24 months than as in adulthood. Reading to babies helps “wire in” those synapses, so that babies get an early intellectual boost. Early reading promotes early literacy.”1

What you need to know about reading to infants:

  • Read to your infant every day. If you need to, schedule a time to read to your infant each day. With our busy lives, sometimes it’s easier if we schedule it in.
  • Start by snuggling in a comfortable quiet environment with your infant in your lap so that your infant associates reading with a warm and pleasant feeling.
  • While reading out loud to infants, they are learning to use their senses of seeing, hearing and touching to learn and make new connections. Allow them time to respond with coos or gurgling sounds, let them touch the books and stay with the same picture as long as they’re interested.
  • Start by pointing to basic pictures and calling them by name. Eventually, the infant will start to point to the object you name and associate the pictures with objects.
  • Infants enjoy books with bright, bold colors and simple pictures without busy backgrounds. Choose books without spirals and soft material or plastic without hard edges.
  • If they continue to show interest with the same book each time, continue to read that book until they lose interest. They are learning the same sounds, rhythms, and words. The more times they hear it, the stronger the brain synapse that occurs.
  • As infants get older, they enjoy basic books about activities they take part in, such as bath time, eating, bed time, etc.
  • Pay attention to the infants cues. Spend as little, or as much time reading together depending on their interest in the book. Do continue to offer reading books as an option throughout their day. 
  • Infants also enjoy books with singing songs and rhymes.
  • Make it fun! You know what your baby loves! Include their interests in what you choose to read and how you read it! Bring joy to reading!

What you need to know about reading to toddlers:

  • As toddlers interests grow and change, add books that include their interests to their reading material. 
  • Be creative with arts and crafts that relate to their favorite books or book characters.
  • Be playful with the books, using different voices for different characters, sing songs that relate to their favorite books, add puppets for the characters, etc.
  • Add more minutes to your reading time to allow them several of their favorite books at a sitting.
  • Give yourself extra time to let them talk about their books, in their own toddler language, and have good conversations with you about their books. Ask them questions about the book throughout your reading and allow them plenty of time to respond. This builds communication and their understanding, and improves their vocabulary.
  • Add new books into their reading to add more knowledge about their world and their place in the world. This could be stories about families, stories about babies, about holidays or every day events.
  • As they get older, they will begin to realize that the printed word is different than the picture and that is what you are reading. 

What you need to know about reading with preschoolers:

  • Expand on their already formed love of reading. Continue to do all of the above!
  • Expand their reading materials. Add books that are longer with more in-depth stories. Books with rich detail and colorful, well done pictures can bring children to a whole new world, to a different time and place. These longer books will take more time to read and enjoy together, so plan that time into your schedules.
  • Create activities that encourage them to write their own stories with pictures and writing. This allows them time to practice writing their letters and to start to figure out how to form words. It also allows them a new way to express themselves and share with you and others.
  • Take them to the library and let them pick out the books they want to read. Show them the library is a special place that all people that love to read go to find new books. Take them to a reading time at the library where a large group of children gather to share a book reading and activities.
  • Lead by example. Parents should take time to read for enjoyment themselves if possible. This shows children that the value and love of reading continues throughout life.
  • As children grow and enter school, continue to support reading time. Continue to read to them until they can read themselves. Once they can read, have them read out loud to you to build those skills.

“Through reading, we can help our children find the tools they need to succeed in life. Having access to information through the printed word is an absolute necessity. Knowledge is power, and books are full of it. But reading is more than just a practical tool. Through books we can enrich our minds; we can also relax and enjoy some precious leisure moments. With your help, children begin a lifelong relationship with the printed word; they can grow into adults who read easily and frequently whether for business, knowledge, or pleasure.”2

Other resources on this topic:

There is a great wealth of information and research out there about the importance of reading starting from infancy and brain development. If you would like to read more about this topic, here are a few good websites for parents and child care providers:


1 Infants & Toddlers: How to Read To Very Young Children by Alice Sterling Honig PhD, Scholastic, Early Childhood Today

2 Reading with Your Child by Bernice Cullinan and Brod Bagert, U.S. Department of Education


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