Reading to Baby: KEEP Reading, Even When You Think They Aren’t Listening

When I first became a Daddy, I expected reading to my baby to be like reading to my class: he would sit and listen. It would include some thinking out loud and, of course since he couldn’t talk at first, I would have a one-sided discussion.


It would also be like the pictures you see on google when you google images of reading with your kid, or the video clips from movies: child sitting happily in your lap, completely engrossed in the book.

And at first, it was like that. He would sit, and stay, because he couldn’t move. At first, he wasn’t even aware that there was a book, which I had expected, because he was a brand new baby and was putting the world together like the puzzle that it is.

I thought, if I read with him every day then he will just know how to do it.

What I have come to realize is that the definition of knowing how to do it for him is very different than it is for me, a fully formed adult.

I quickly learned that at the very base of reading to your child, you are filling their world with vocabulary. You are reading WORDS and EXPRESSING your voice. You are teaching them how to communicate.

This opened the reading world up.

I12118690_10101208345304841_5625839312682705286_nt was OKAY if he played while I read out loud. He was hearing the words. I would hold the book up “read aloud” style and show him the pages when he was looking. That was okay!

There are times when he wants to sit on us to listen to a book. This is great! And it’s okay too! It’s just as okay as it is when he plays.

There are times when he wants to look at the start of 257 different books. THAT IS AWESOME! He is expressing interest in a book.

Tonight, he took down a book, opened it up and started to babble in a VERY expressive little high pitched voice. He was READING the book TO ME! He even showed me a picture. The total length of this activity was about 32 seconds. He moved on, because he is a just over a year old (I refuse to number him in months after a year – that’s weird)!

Sometimes, he pulls down every book, and picks out one and hands it to me. I start to read it and he points at the biggest shape on the page. Then, he turns and gets another book. We start again. AND THAT IS OKAY.

Why is this rambunctious style of reading okay?

It’s okay because he:

  • hears lots and lots of words
  • hears complete stories at least 1-2 times a day (this happens usually when he is being read to while he plays, although sometimes he starts out listening to the story on my lap)
  • hears my expression
  • hears me wondering out loud about the stories
  • sees me turning pages
  • sees me pointing at words while I read
  • sees me opening the book, and touching the pictures
  • knows that I love books

12106728_10101208345294861_4609005104412785179_nHe demonstrates that he is learning by:

  • pulling down the books … this is his way of saying, “I LOVE BOOKS TOO!”
  • picking out books … this is his way of saying, “READ ME ALL OF THE BOOKS!”
  • turning the pages in the books … this is his way of showing me that he has been watching, and his way of saying, “LOOK DADDY! I CAN TURN PAGES! I can only turn them in big chunks, but my fine motor
    skills are getting stronger!”
  • opening the books … this is his way of showing off more of his finemotor skills and telling me that he knows that when you have a book, you should OPEN IT!
  • “reading” the story to me by babbling as he looks at the pictures
  • pointing at the pictures while I read
  • settling onto my lap while I read, even if it is only for short intervals, even as short as five seconds

12107103_10101208345384681_2296204966621885450_nI thought, if I read with him every day then he will just know how to do it. And clearly, he DOES. It just doesn’t look the same as I expected it to.

I know that when your baby turns away from your reading, it feels a little painful. BUT this does NOT mean that you should STOP reading. It means you should keep reading, because babies and small children learn from everything we say and do.
Lead by example. Just read: read great books and lame books, rhyming books and wordless books, holiday books and serious historical books, big books and little books. If you can read THREE book a day FROM THE DAY THEY ARE BORN (according to Mem Fox, reading guru – and I believe it), then you will have set your child up for success. Readers become leaders.

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