by Stephanie Seabrooke
New moms and dads are often bombarded with advice on how to best nurture their babies. But well-meaning in-laws, friends, and co-workers who all offer a dizzying array of tips on feeding, sleeping, and playtime can easily overwhelm parents who are still adjusting to life with an infant. And while wading through a litany of opinions of childrearing is one of the biggest struggles of parenthood, pediatricians are in near universal agreement on one thing: reading to your baby on a regular basis is integral to their development. Studies have shown that even newborns respond positively to being read to, and the benefits only increase as they grow older.
Despite the proven advantages of reading aloud to their infants, some parents understandably feel a little awkward talking to someone who isn’t yet able to understand or respond to what they’re saying. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying story time with your baby! Below are a few of the most important reasons why you should be reading to your little one every day.
1. It’s a great way to bond. Snuggling your newborn next to you while you read exposes them to your loving touch and the sound of your voice, both of which are immensely soothing to young infants still transitioning to life outside the womb. And if you get bored of reading baby books, feel free to switch to an interesting newspaper article or a chapter from that novel you’ve been trying to finish. When babies are this young, it doesn’t matter what you read – they just want to listen to you while you do it.
2. It sets them up for success later in life. Research has shown that children who are read to regularly from infancy have a more expansive vocabulary than children who are not. This translates to higher test scores and advanced executive functioning abilities once they reach school age. So, while your baby may not understand what you’re saying now, they’re still picking up the tones, inflections, and rhythms that are fundamental to strong academic skills down the line.
3. It enhances their emotional intelligence. When you adopt a funny voice for a character in a book or describe how someone in a story is reacting to a situation, you’re exposing your baby to the concept of feelings. Learning that certain words and sounds can convey specific emotions is an advanced neurological skill best imparted by reading out loud. Music, movies, and television don’t even come close to the written word in terms of teaching emotional comprehension, so minimize screen time in favor of a daily reading routine.
While learning how to foster your baby’s emotional well-being and promote their intellectual growth is an important part of new parenthood, it can be challenging to determine the best way to give them a head start in life. But rest assured that reading aloud to your baby every day and continuing the habit as they grow is a proven method for bonding with them while developing important lifelong skills.