By Christina VanGinkel
Do not wait for your babies to turn into toddlers, or even preschoolers, to start reading to them. Read to your baby from the very first day you bring him or her home. Do not let anyone tell you that an infant will not get anything out of it either. Statistics have long proven that infants that are read to early and consistently are ahead academically of children that do not have this same advantage. Not to mention what both you and your baby will both gain from it, togetherness.
What should you read to your infant? Any book will do to start. It has something to do with the tone of our voices when we read. The calming effect is how I refer to it. Not calming as in directly to the child, though it does that too, but calming to us, the adult. This in turn lets the baby become calm in our presence. When your infant reaches about six weeks of age, start to progress towards children's board books, as babies like to grasp anything their hands meet, and board books will be able to withstand all the tugging, pulling, and even teething that they will eventually be submitted too.
My favorite children's books to read aloud are those that rhyme. Infants and young children pick up the singsong effect that rhyming stories emit, and it seems like they are more likely to memorize a rhyming story than any other style. Besides the ever-popular Dr. Seuss stories, many authors write in the rhyming style today. A few that immediately come to mind include Karma Wilson, who wrote the delightful Bear Wants More, Bear Snores On, and Bear Stays up for Christmas, all featuring the most adorable illustrations by Jane Chapman. Dori Chaconas, author of On a Wintry Morning, is another favorite, as is anything by the late Linda Smith, including When Moon Fell Down. All of these are destined to become classics and you could not go wrong by introducing your infant to the works of these three authors.
If rhyme is not your style, pick something else, because the main advantage is the basic reading itself. Find a quiet spot in your house if you can, preferably somewhere cozy. If nothing like this exists, try to create a space. It could be a rocking chair, or even a few pillows tossed on the floor where you can settle down comfortably with baby. By the time you have done this a few times, you will be amazed at how even a fussy baby will settle down when they realize that they are going to be read a story. Some people also suggest reading at the same time each day, and that may work for some, but I read whenever the mood would strike. In addition, my daughter not only reads to my grandson everyday, but also whenever he seems to be getting overly fussy, out come the books.
I know some of you are saying that this is all good, but the costs of books are so high, that you cannot afford to be buying them for your infants and toddlers. While I agree that some seem high, that is because authors and illustrators have to make a living too. Moreover, there are many affordable alternatives besides the regular bookstore shelves. Check the sales racks anywhere books are sold on a regular basis. Dollar Stores often have a variety of nice board and toddler books. Libraries are free, and if you find a book that your child adores at the library, you can always make it a lesson in saving when they are a bit older, to help them purchase that favorite book for their own.
Wherever you end up getting books from, remember that reading them together is one of the greatest things you can do for your kids.