Even before I was pregnant, I knew that reading to my future child was as important to successful parenting as assuring that he or she ate a variety of healthy foods. But when exactly was I supposed to start reading? Was there a right way to do it? Was there really a benefit to reading to my unborn child, or was this just some “new agey” idea?
I found out I was pregnant in January of 2009, and very soon after, my unborn child began listening to the Harry Potter series. I had never read the books (or seen the movies because apparently I was residing under a rock for the better part of the 2000s), but my husband was a huge fan. He was also facing a potential military deployment and was worried about missing the birth and first few months of bonding with our child. He thought that by reading to my belly, Baby Squirt would recognize his voice and they would have a connection. It felt silly at first, crawling into bed at the end of the day and having my stomach be the primary audience to the tale of the boy who lived under the stairs. However, it became one of the most relaxing parts of my day, and is one of the memories I share regularly with my son when we cuddle up at night to read a good story now.
It turns out that the hubby was right (how often do we wives actually say that?) His prenatal reading may have helped increase his parental feelings/bond and also allowed us to begin a reading habit. Mamta Patel, PhD. writes that by the seventh month of pregnancy, a "baby can hear and respond to familiar voices." In addition, many studies have shown engaging kids with books from day one gives those kids a leg up for later learning; listening to stories exposes them to more words and word sounds, thus improving their vocabulary and communication skills well before starting school. Books also help children learn about themes and concepts they might not otherwise encounter.
If your family already has a reading habit, keep up the great work! Your child is well on the path to becoming a successful reader and reaping all the benefits that come with that title. But have no fear if you’ve been too busy changing diapers and prepping bottles to tackle this task. I encourage you to find a few minutes today, pick up a favorite book or magazine, and begin reading with your little one. Stayed tuned to storieChild, because in the coming weeks we will be talking more about what to read and how to make the experience even more fun and effective.
When did you start reading to your kids? Any tips? I would love to hear your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.