reading to your child

When parents ask about reading to their child during office visits, I often find myself referencing the “language explosion” stage (18-24 months), primarily because each age has it’s own milestones, and that age is a more “natural” time to discuss such a topic. However, while it may not always be discussed during office visits, children can benefit from reading time at ANY age, and it’s important for parents to understand why.

The Primary Benefits of Reading to Your Child:

Brain Development
Reading can help brain development by strengthening connections between pictures and words, thus improving overall language development.

Familial Relationships
Reading can help strengthen familial relationships when time with parents, older siblings, or other loved ones, is dedicated to cuddle and read a good book…phones, tablets, and television put aside.

It’s never too early or late to start a reading tradition! And to help you get started, the American Academy of Pediatrics has provided a breakdown of what to expect from your infant or child during reading time, and how to get the most out of it:

Reading During Infancy:

Birth-3months –

Your baby can: Look at the book that you’re holding. Books with highly contrasting colors such as red, black, and white, work best.

You can: Find a quiet, cozy place to cuddle up together with a sturdy book. And yes – you can expect them to be more fascinated by the sound of your voice than a book at this point, but getting them familiar with a book is important, even at this stage.

4-5 months –

Your baby can: Reach toward a book and pat the pictures in it. Babies also typically start chewing on books at this stage, so sturdy cloth, wood, or soft plastic books work best.

You can: Name and point to the pictures your baby shows interest in.

6-8 months –

Your baby can: Explore a book by feeling it, turning it upside down, putting it in their mouth, or dropping it.

You can: Help your child turn pages, following his or her interest.

9-11 months –

Your baby can: Copy some of the sounds you make, the looks on your face, and
various gestures.

You can: Act out the story or pictures using facial expressions, hands, and voice. Singing can be incorporated to make reading time even more enjoyable.

Reading During the Toddler Years:

12–14 months –

Your toddler can: Choose a favorite book to read with you.

You can: Ask your child questions that they can answer by pointing. You can say: “Where’s the doggie?” or “Where’s the happy baby?” or “Who says meow?”.

15–17 months –

Your toddler can: Laugh, squeal, and point while enjoying a favorite book with you.

You can: Name and then demonstrate actions or emotions in a book, such as laughing.

18–23 months –

Your toddler can: Choose a book to share and tell you they want “more book” or “nother book.”

You can: Read the same book repeatedly if that’s what your toddler requests. In fact, toddlers learn by repeating things over and over again, so repetitive reading can be beneficial for brain development.

24–29 months –

Your toddler can: Ask you questions about the pictures or story, such as: “What’s that?”.

You can: Respond with excitement to their questions and comments.

30–35 months –

Your toddler can: Ask questions about the characters or story in a book.

You can: Talk about the feelings of the characters and ask your toddler if they’ve ever felt the same way.

Reading During the Preschool Years

3 years –

Your child can: Explain certain elements of the story.

You can: Ask your child to point out similarities in the book. For example, “Can you find all the blue things?” or “Show me all the things that can fly.”

4 years –

Your child can: Pretend to read a favorite story out loud.

You can: Point out colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.

5 years –

Your child can: Predict what might happen next in a story (before turning the page).

You can: Ask your child to tell you about the pictures and the story.

The Fun Doesn’t End Here!

For more information on reading to your child visit healthychildren.org. In addition, The American Academy of Pediatrics sponsored website provides an app for their free e-magazine or a downloadable PDF with all the above information and more. I highly recommend this website for pediatrician approved information for new parents.

About the Author

Dr. Crystal Salinas

Dr. Crystal Salinas is a Board Certified Pediatrician for the Pediatric Center of Round Rock. Her career interests include nutrition and obesity awareness, asthma, and newborn care. She also continues to serve as a continuity preceptor for residents at Dell Children’s Medical Center and enjoys medical missions.