My husband Tom and I are expecting our first baby in July. As the current Program Manager here at CLiF, I get to see on a daily basis the positive impact that strong reading habits have on children and families. But, like most first-time parents, I’m also getting a healthy dose of information and advice from those that came before me!
A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine asking how I was doing and offering a helpful suggestion: “Have Tom read to your baby every night. My husband read to my bump in the third trimester and the baby immediately recognized his voice when she was born.” I anecdotally heard that from a few other parents too and loved the idea of Tom being able to bond with our little one in utero.
So now every night before bed we read to my belly. Sometimes it’s a silly Dr. Seuss story and sometimes it’s a chapter from one of our (many!) parenting handbooks. It’s a nice opportunity to unwind and think about the little being growing – and potentially learning- inside me.
While the science is still out on the impact of dad’s voice on a baby in the womb, a recent study published in the journal Acta Paediatrica has proven that babies start to learn mom’s speech patterns before birth by listening to her voice. This is much earlier than scientists previously thought and further makes the case for setting aside some dedicated reading time.
Besides the potential benefits to the baby, taking time to read to the baby before he or she is born begins a tradition. It sets nightly reading as a priority for the family and helps form healthy habits that will last well into childhood. I for one am really enjoying witnessing Tom’s first steps into fatherhood through our new ritual. And will the baby clearly recognize Tom’s voice when he or she is welcomed into the world? We shall see! Looking for other ways to prepare your baby to be a lifelong reader? Take a look at these tips:
- Ask your parents if they kept copies of your favorite books from childhood. Dust off these family heirlooms to share with your little one! If original copies don’t exist, buy or borrow new editions of your favorites.
- Instead of receiving cards at your baby shower, ask guests to bring a signed board book instead. They cost about the same and help build your baby’s library.
- Prepare designated low-lying shelving in your nursery for books. When baby starts to crawl and walk the books will be at eye level.
- Books come in many durable forms these days – purchase books that are waterproof for the bathtub or cloth for on-the-go. You’ll never be without instant entertainment for your child!
- Read a black and white book to your newborn. High-contrast pages are easier for young eyes to focus on while their eyesight is developing. You’ll notice they react more to these images than colorful ones.