Given babies’ exceptional powers of comprehension, what is a good age to introduce them to books, or are they too young for books at this stage? On the contrary, scientists recommend that parents read out aloud to the baby until she is old enough to share the books with them.
The benefits of reading aloud to babies are immense: it teaches the babies to recognise speech patterns, it improves their memory, and it enhances their cognitive thinking skills. Research shows that children exposed to books may outperform those that were not in school.
Reading a book together allows parents to spend quality time with their child, especially in cases where both parents are working professionals. It helps the children to build strong bonds with the parents, and regard family as a support system they can rely on at all times.
What type of books fit the bill? Simple and illustrative books do. But make sure that when you leave the baby alone for a moment or two the kid does not make a meal of the book by chewing it up. You would surely want your baby to digest important topics, wouldn’t you, but not literally!
In babies under 12 months, the sense organs are still in the process of maturing and calibrating with their environment. Therefore, books with no or little text and pictures with bright contrasting colours manage to grab–and hold–their attention almost immediately.
For babies in the age group of 12 to 24 months, it is time to introduce them to animals for whom most children have a congenital empathy. You can begin to ask them questions like ‘how many legs does a cow have’ or ‘how does the baby cow (calf) let the mother cow know she wants food’(by mooing). Associating pictures with sound and words creates a powerful impression on the child. It also helps the baby’s vocabulary as you introduce new words with every new animal.
Now, your baby is ready to take on a more active role in the reading process. She might insist on turning the pages herself or even beat you to the next part of the story. She might show off her skills by reciting the entire set of animal sounds and even enact some of the actions the animals perform. At this stage, it may look like your main job is to find more books for your baby.
There are good resources on the internet on good books suitable for babies. Search using phrases like ‘10 best books for babies’ or similar. Finally, this is a crucial phase in your baby’s developmental stage and books can help your child to beat the risk of developing excessive fondness for electronic gadgets and TV.