The benefits of reading to your baby

Enjoying stories with your baby is a great learning experience and it has many positive effects on your child’s development.

Baby peering over raised papers

Introduction

Reading to your baby is a wonderful and creative learning experience for you both to share – and it can have a significant effect on your baby’s pre-literacy and pre-speech skills.

Reading aloud prepares your baby’s brain for language, as it teaches your baby about words and sentence formation and introduces them to concepts such as stories, colours, letters and numbers. Enjoying stories together also helps your child with their talking and reading skills in the future.

Understanding language can boost your baby’s self confidence and self-esteem, and listening to stories will help your baby build up a better picture of the world around them.

How CBeebies can help

CBeebies has lots of storytelling and reading activities for you and your baby to do together.

For younger babies, try stories and nursery rhymes from the Teletubbies pages (click through to the Story Time section), These rhymes are short, simple and repetitive. ‘Pat-a-Cake’ and ‘Doctor Foster’ are good examples to read aloud to babies under eight months.

For older babies, try ‘Nessie’s Story’ (which you can find on the Balamory pages). It incorporates a peek-a-boo guessing game which older babies will adore! Alternatively, ‘Mr Tumble and the Minibeasts’ (in the Story Time section of the Something Special pages) is a wonderful animated collection of poems/rhymes with gentle, rhythmic and repetitive phrases that babies of all ages will delight in.

How to make a magic moment

Choose a time in the day when your baby is quiet and alert to try out a storytelling activity. Babies who are quiet and alert are more attentive to stimuli and more ready to learn.

For young babies, face your infant as you tell the story. Your baby prefers the sight of mum and dad’s faces and the sound of your voices above everything else! Older babies are more visual and will love the bright colours and simple shapes in a story book or on a screen.

Make the activity fun by getting into the spirit of the story. Try out different voices and characters and make lots of facial expressions and exaggerated gestures to keep your baby transfixed.

Babies especially enjoy high-pitched and tuneful accents. Observe your baby. Do they prefer one story over another? Do they have a favourite accent or silly voice? Do they try to join in with the storytelling? You can tell the story over and over again as your baby will never tire of listening to you!

by Karen Emery

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Top tips

  • Get down to your local library. As well as taking out books for you and baby to share, there are usually storytelling activities to participate in. And best of all, they are free!Start reading aloud to your baby as early as possible! The more you talk to your baby, the better their vocabulary will be when they begin talking.Choose stories that are short and simple with repeating phrases that will help babies to understand words and letters – e.g. nursery rhymes. Choose books that are textured and visual.Try making up a story to accompany daily activities, such as nappy time. If you’re not a confident story-maker, then repeat a particular story or poem from memory. Or simply describe what you are doing.Make it fun! Use visual aids such as puppets or your baby’s favourite toy and do silly voices and actions to accompany the tale.

Expert opinion

Parents who introduce their babies to books give them a head start in school and an advantage over their peers throughout primary school.

Professor Barrie Wade and Dr Maggie Moore,

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