The powerful impact of reading to your baby

The powerful impact of reading to your baby

When is the right age to start reading to your baby? How about now? Research shows, it’s never too soon to start reading to your baby. Reading to your baby early and often really does the power to transform minds and lives.

In a 1995 landmark study, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley discovered that children who had exposure to over 30 million words before the age of three had better reading skills, larger vocabularies, and higher test scores in school. New research highlights how talking to your baby is the most significant thing you can do for their development. According to Dr. Dana Suskind, founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative at the University of Chicago, “… language is the element that helps develop the brain to its optimum potential.”

Reading to your baby is a fun, easy and obvious way to expose your baby to language. A closer look at the benefits of reading to your newborn.

Reading aloud is bonding time.
Find a comfortable spot, turn off distractions, grab your favourite baby books and snuggle up with your little bug for a daily dose of reading together. By reading to your baby they are learning to recognize the sounds and rhythm of language, the tones and inflections of your voice, and by cuddling, that reading is comforting and fun. Fostering a love of reading that will last through school and into adulthood.

Reading aloud is also a great way for older siblings, grandparents and other family members to bond with your baby. As your baby grows, they might not remember the stories you read together but will have fond memories of snuggling up and enjoying books with the people who love them.

Reading aloud expands vocabulary
Learning a first language is extremely complex. Babies are learning to isolate sound and group syllables, which at some point become discrete words, and assign meaning. According to Morten Christiansen, Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Cornell University, “language comes at us at an incredibly fast pace, and we need to be able to group things together very quickly, otherwise, it’s just impossible to understand.”

Most baby or board books don’t contain a lot of words. They’re mostly pictures. But this is where the magic happens! It is in the interaction with your baby, pointing out shapes or animals or explaining what is happening in the pictures, that help assign meaning to words and expands their vocabulary. And according to Pamela High, Professor at Brown University, “The stronger their language skills are when they reach kindergarten, the more prepared they are to be able to read. The better they read, the more likely they will graduate from high school.” 

Reading aloud builds cognitive skills
According to the Anne Fernald, Principle Investigator, Language Learning Lab, Stanford University, “a child’s mental processing speed . . . is shaped through rich engagement with language.” Faster processing allows babies and toddlers to recognize familiar words more quickly so they can pay attention to the next word in the sentence. This allows babies to get more out of each interaction. Which in turn, allows them to further build their vocabulary and strengthen their working memory and conceptual abilities. A cycle that repeats over and over.

Reading to your baby has a significant, positive impact on the development of your baby’s brain. So much so, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy recommending parent-child home reading beginning at birth. Reading to your baby strengthens parent-child relationships, expands vocabulary and builds cognitive skills – all building blocks needed to find success in school and beyond.