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There has been a lot of research about reading to babies, and most of it says that when it comes to reading to newborns, the earlier the better. The good news is that there lots of great books for babies under 1.
There are so many benefits associated with reading to newborns.
- Reading to your baby strengthens your parent-child bond
- It helps calm your baby when they are distraught
- Adopting a reading habit with babies under one increases the chances that you will continue reading to your baby as they grow older.
Reading to babies also sets the stage for their language development. Your tone, facial expressions and pauses are all important in helping your child better understand communication patterns.
According to several researchers, hearing new words on a frequent basis helps your baby develop language skills faster.
Reading to babies under 1 is important, but not all books are appropriate to your baby’s development. Newborns are yet to develop many skills, which means that it is important to take their stage of development into account when choosing their books.
Here are a few tips to help you select appropriate books for your one-year old.
What kind of books are appropriate for a baby under 1?
Reading to babies under 1: The best books from zero- to six-months-old
Both babies’ vision and their ability to focus develops over time.
At first, your baby will love gazing into your face, but then they will rapidly begin to distinguish black, white, and colorful images.
By three months, they even begin to recognize familiar objects, meaning that the more they see the same object, the easier it becomes for them to recognize those objects.
When it comes to reading to your newborn, it is important to understand that your baby will not understand what they are hearing, so reading at this age is more for bonding purposes or an effective activity to sooth your child.
In other words, reading to a newborn is more about the experience than the story – your baby is more interested in listening to your voice and in your presence. This means that they will enjoy anything you read, so you might at well read your favorite book or magazine!
Things get more interesting from around month three or four. This is an age when your baby starts to look forward to your reading routine and to express their excitement when it’s reading time.
It is important to follow their cue at this age and to only read when they seem interested in reading: if they don’t, let it go and try again later. Or you can also try simply talking or singing. Your baby will enjoy listening to a voice they are already familiar with!
At six months, your baby will become even more active and will begin to show an interest in manipulating books by themselves. Choosing simple and colorful books for babies under one will help attract their interest.
They will be interested in opening and closing books, lifting flaps, and well, putting their books in their mouth. This is completely normal behavior at this stage.
Here are five great books your 0-to 6-month-old baby will love discovering or listening to!
Black on white: This bestselling large format board book by Tana Hoban is filled with black-and-white high-contrast images that your baby will love looking at.
Moo, Baa, La La La! – This is a great book for babies, and yours will love discovering the different sounds that farm animals make (without forgetting the pig that says “la la la!”.
Look Look! Your baby will love discovering all the high-contrast black and white images in this book. It is perfect for your newborn’s vision and older babies will enjoy it as well.
Peak-a-moo – This high-contrast flap book by Marie Torres Cimarusti is great for your baby’s development. Your baby will love looking at the colorful images when the flap opens and to lift the flaps themselves as they grow older.
Hello baby animals: This is a lovely book for babies under 1 because it features high-constrast images that are perfect for your child’s developing eyes.
The best books from six to nine months
While before 6 months your child is able to grasp objects, it is not until when they around 6 months old that they start moving objects from one hand to another. They become better at grasping objects and turning pages.
At six months, your baby’s hand-eye coordination and eyesight are also better developed.
They will appreciate books that they can feel, touch and explore. It is important to choose books with different textures (soft, hard, lumpy, fuzzy and so on) to help them familiarize themselves with different sensations.
Flap books are a great option at this age because they allow your child to develop their fine-motor skills when they use their fingers to explore the different aspects of the book they are reading. Babies are rough with books, so choose good solid books if you want them to last. Here are a few good and sturdy books for your baby at this age:
Any books that stimulate your baby’s senses are great at this age. The best visual stimulation books for babies under one are those that are very colorful or high-contrast books. Here are a few great options you may want to check out:
Flip, Flap, Fly! This book by Phyllis Root is a great choice for your baby after six months. It has great rhymes and beautiful illustrations of baby animals that your baby will be able to observe as they fly, swim, wiggle, and slide.
See touch feel: This sensory book has brightly colored images of happy babies and it is designed to stimulate your baby’s curiosity by allowing them to touch and discover different textures. They will also love this book as they grow older.
Bright Baby Touch & Feel Baby Animals: Your baby will be able to touch and feel baby animals and therefore to discover different textures.
Pat the bunny – your child will enjoy this interactive classic touch-and-feel book filled with lovely illustrations. It is a great toy to develop your baby’s language skills.
Wheels on the bus – This “songs to read” board book has lovely illustrations and will help develop your child’s speech and listening skills.
Reading to newborns: The best books after nine months
At around nine months, your baby begins to understand a few simple words. It is at this age that they start showing that they recognize certain words or certain stories.
Board books, books that are highly repetitive (for example books with rhymes) and picture books are great options for babies at this age.
Your 9-month-old baby will also love looking at images of other babies or of familiar objects. Take advantage and show them pictures of babies portraying different emotions or reacting to different situations!
Here are a few great options to choose from
Goodnight moon: Your baby will love listening to you as you tell them about the little bunny that says goodnight to all the familiar things in his bedroom. This is a great book to read to your baby before they go to sleep.
Itsy Bitsy Spider – your baby will enjoy the classic rhyme about the adventures of a spider. Your baby won’t be able to resist touching the spider and turning the pages.
Tickle My Ears: This simple board book is great for newborns. Your child will love listening to it and discovering the fun activity to put bunny to bed on each page. This is a great book to read to your baby before they go to sleep and it will help you develop a fun bedtime ritual with them.
I Love You to the Moon and Back – Your baby will love listening to this board book about the different ways a bear and a cub show each other love – rubbing noses, hugging, snuggling, chasing each other, and so on.
Open the barn door – your baby will love discovering animal sights and sounds in this fun-filled board book.
Most of the books presented above are great for babies under 1 – as they grow older and acquire greater skills, they will discover the books from a different angle. In other words, while a 3-month-old may enjoy looking at the pictures in a flap book, they can begin touching and manipulating the same book at six months.
Practical tips to help you choose the books to read to babies under 1
1) Your baby will appreciate bright colors and sharp contrasts. They will be more attracted to high-contrast and brightly colored books.
2) The more your baby hears the same words, the easier it is for them to remember those words. Simple and repetitive books are great for your baby’s development, so choose books with multiple repetitions or reading the same books to them. Books with rhythm and rhymes are also great books for babies under 1.
3) Your baby learns a lot through manipulation, so books that allow them to use their fingers are great options.
From 6-months-old, flap books and touch and feel books are great options for your baby because they also help them to develop other skills such as their visual skills and their fine-motor skills.
Choosing books with different textures also help stimulate your child’s senses.
4) Books with large and colorful images will be more effective in attracting and holding your baby’s attention.
5) The fewer the images per page, the better it is for your baby’s development. Books with one image against a contrasting background are great options at this age.
6) Your baby will throw, pull at and mouth their books, so you need to choose books that are sturdy if you want them to last.
7) Be attentive to your baby’s age and development when choosing their books. While younger babies will find it easier to manipulate smaller books, older babies will appreciate larger books.
We now know that there is no such thing as “too early” when it comes to initiating reading activities with your child. But even if you have gotten off to a late start, it is never too late to start!
What are your favorite books for babies under 1? Please share in the comments section below.
References and further reading