By: Sara-Jayne Carcerano

The benefits of reading to your children can start before they are even born. Around 18 weeks of pregnancy your baby will be able to start hearing their first sounds and their hearing will rapidly develop during the next few weeks to be able to recognize voices. When you talk and read to your unborn baby, you are already starting a bonding experience with them. How exciting that they will recognize your voice right when they are born. Reading to your baby early in your pregnancy also allows you time to relax and de-stress which benefits both you and your baby.

If you feel strange reading to your pregnant belly, have a sibling, grandparent or your partner join in for a story time and take turns reading. This will also allow for other people who will be important in your child’s life to connect with the baby, and baby will also start to recognize their voices, too.

During pregnancy, your baby’s brain is developing rapidly and storing information for future use. This is one reason why it is important to eat healthy during your pregnancy. Science has shown that reading to your baby in the womb promotes brain activity and can promote early literacy skills and language development.

Literacy skills continue to develop while reading to your baby after they are born. Even though a baby is not able to talk, they are learning about the world around them. When you read to them, you are helping them understand concepts such as numbers, letters, colours and shapes; they are learning how to communicate and building their vocabulary. All children learn differently but research from Nemours Reading BrightStart! shows that babies who are read to often can speak more words at two years old than those who are not read to as often.

Reading to your children promotes closeness between parent and child and continues to build attachment and trust. Once your little one is about four months old, they will start grabbing for objects including books, and it won’t be long until they will start to want to turn pages on their own. Board and cloth books are great for babies and toddlers to explore on their own and with a caregiver. By about 12 months, children may start showing a preference for certain books and enjoy choosing a book to read. They often love repetition at this age so don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading the same book over and over.

At a time when our world is becoming more digital and e-books are gaining in popularity, print books still seem to be the preference for young children. While any form of reading will be beneficial for your child, recent research has found that young children are more engaged while reading print books versus e-books. This same research shows that there is more interaction between parent and child while reading a print book. In reading an e-book, babies and young children may become distracted by buttons and screens on a digital device that will limit their engagement with the story being read. Holding a book, turning pages and touching various textures on books can help develop motor skills. Educators have also found that children who have print books in their home are more interested in reading and learning than those who do not.

If you have a child and reading is something that you haven’t engaged in much, it’s never too late. Grab a book and plan to sit down and read together today. Reading words and talking about pictures in books will go a long way to help build your child’s brain.

At-home reading resources

While all Edmonton Public Library branches are closed indefinitely, its digital library is available. According to EPL:

“EPL provides so many great resources you can use while you are at home. We encourage you to use EPL’s digital library where you can watch movies, read ebooks, listen to audiobooks, access digital magazines or take an online course. There are literally a million digital resources you can access from the comfort of your own home!

If you don’t have a library card, register for a card online for immediate access to our digital library.”