When Should I Start Reading to My Baby?

By Chelsey Roos

What exactly does it mean to set a child up for a life-long love of reading? When should you start, and what should you do? The good news is, being excited about reading is one of the best things you can do for your child. For everything else, we can help.

When should I start reading to my baby?

Today! It’s never too early, and it’s also never too late. Whether your baby is six months old, six weeks old, or six days old, they will benefit from some book time. Research has shown that babies can even recognize voices and songs they heard in utero as early as 24 weeks, so go ahead and start reading aloud if you’re currently pregnant. It will help you get more comfortable reading aloud, and it doesn’t matter what you’re reading. Read a few paragraphs from the book you’re currently enjoying, or from an article you’re browsing on your phone. Your baby doesn’t mind!

What should I read to my baby?

Here’s what to look for at each stage of your baby’s development:

  • 0-3 months: Newborns are still developing their eyesight, so they may not focus on the books you share. Look for board books with high-contrast, black-and-white illustrations, and hold them open on the floor at tummy time. It’s also okay to keep reading your own reading material aloud at this age – the rhythm of your voice and the closeness you share are more important than the actual words.
  • 4-8 months: Babies this age love to look at board books with photos of faces – especially of other babies! Don’t worry if your baby isn’t looking at the book while you read. They might be too busy looking around the room and taking in all their surroundings. Touch-and-feel books with interesting textures might hold their attention, but they’ll also be good as your baby grows.
  • 9-12 months: They might not be talking yet, but your baby is really starting to understand words! Look for board books with simple, repetitive text. Animal sounds are a big hit, because they contain easy-to-hear vowel sounds (like moo and baa), which might become some of your baby’s first words! Interactive books are also winners – a book that uses the song Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, for example, lets you both sing and point out baby’s body parts along with the song.
  • 12-18 months: Your baby might be able to really engage with books at this age! They might to the dog on the page when you ask, or help you turn the pages. Stick with board books, because their hard pages are able to stand up to your baby’s rough and tumble lifestyle. Lift-a-flap books are also great fun – as long as you’ve got some tape handy! And don’t worry if your baby has lost all interest in books when they started to walk or crawl. You can still read to them while they roam the living room. They’re listening, even if they don’t show it.
  • 18-24 months: Be ready to read the same book again. And again. And again. Exactly the same way each time. Your child might develop intense favorites at this age – indulge them! You won’t be stunting their literary growth by reading the same book fifty times (though you might start to contemplate “accidentally” returning that book to the library early). Your child will start to follow slightly longer books that feel like real stories at this point, and their sense of humor will show if you make goofy sound effects and faces as you read.

My baby doesn’t seem interested in books. What can I do?

Your baby has a lot to see and do right now – it’s no wonder they might not have time for books! Many babies go through phases where they aren’t interested in books, especially if they’re busy developing other skills like crawling or walking. Keep plenty of books around, and keep offering to read. You don’t have to read every word, or even every page – you can skip to the parts that hold your child’s interest the most, like a favorite page or funny sound. Try incorporating books at quiet times, like bedtime rituals or feeding times, when your baby isn’t feeling so go-go-go. In a few weeks or months, your child might be ready to settle in for book time again.

Can I get some book recommendations for my baby?

You bet! Check out the beloved board books below for some great ideas.

Best Board Books for Baby

List created by ACL_ChelseyR

You want to read to your baby, but you're not sure when or where to start. Good news! You can start today (no matter your baby's age) with the books below. Let's read, baby!

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