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When Should You Start Reading to Your Children?

by SarahD on September 23, 2010

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The Right Time to Start Reading to Your Kids

In a word: NOW!  It is never too soon to start reading to your children, and in fact, the sooner the better.  Many people feel that reading to kids is a leisure activity and that up until a certain age they really don’t understand what you’re saying.  Well, to some extent, that is true.  Kids may not start talking until they’re over a year old, but believe it or not, they start picking up on language much sooner.  Just because they can’t control their motor functions sufficiently to speak back to you doesn’t mean they’re not listening.  And reading can expose them to a whole world of words that goes into some subconscious memory bank for later extraction.

The fact that babies understand language long before they can speak verbally has been proven through the use of baby sign language.  They are able to develop the motor skills in their hands faster than their mouths, and as a result, the average baby can begin using simple sign language (like sleep, hungry, pacifier, etc.) as early as six to eight months of age (sometimes even earlier).  And many parents begin signing to their babies even earlier so that they can form a cognitive connection between objects and hand movements even before they are able to form the signs themselves.  And signing is not just a way to improve communication and reduce your child’s frustration level; it also helps your child to develop their language skills sooner.  Even more than that, it is proof positive that babies can understand you a lot earlier than you think.

You’ve probably heard parents reading their kids adult books, with the explanation, “It doesn’t really matter what you read, it’s how you read it.”  Apparently, this is not the case.  What you read your baby and when can make a difference in how they develop their cognitive skills.  While it is advisable to read your child stories that are slightly above their level, pulling out a Leon Uris tome or a little Deepak Chopra is really not going to give them any added benefit.  While it is true that they are absorbing the vocabulary, babies need other forms of stimulus.  That’s why most children’s books have brightly colored pictures.  These not only grab a child’s attention, they also help kids learn to associate words (or combinations of sound) with objects.  Saying “apple” while pointing to a picture of the item in question may not be very stimulating for your brain, but it is necessary for babies to learn.

Even if you’re not too worried about the progression of your child’s speech (as you’re probably well aware, all children develop at different rates) you should start reading to them as early as possible.  It’s important for more than just the process of cognition and speech.  Reading is a way to bond with your child, and most parents utilize it in this way.  Some parents even read to their baby in the womb as a way to connect and transfer the sound of their voice.  So no matter how you feel about the proper age at which to begin teaching a child, you can certainly use reading as a way form a deeper bond with your little bundle of joy.

Sarah Danielson writes for a website that specializes in audiobooks where you can find audio book reviews and read the latest industry news.

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