Don't Lick the Library Books! - Tips for Reading with Your Baby
Updated: Feb 9, 2020
Reading is a fun way to spend quality time with your child and relax together. It's also a simple and enjoyable way to nurture your child's literacy and language skills. Building even a few minutes of story time into your daily routine is beneficial to your baby's development and can inspire a life-long love of reading.
Why reading is AWESOME for your child's development:
Promotes advanced language by introducing new vocabulary and concepts.
Allows children to practice empathy skills by relating to characters' emotions and diverse ways of life.
Storytelling teaches listening skills, fosters imagination, and models interpersonal communication.
Reading and engaging in discussions about the book helps develop longer attention spans.
These are all important skills that your child will use for the rest of their life. Unfortunately reading with your little one can also be challenging. Try some of these ideas to make story time easier for both you and your book worm in training.
Try a Teether or Pacifier to Reduce Chewing on Books
If your baby is still in the oral sensory phase (let's be real, some kids stay there for years. Any former paste eaters out there?) they may be constantly trying to chew or suck on the book every time your read together. Putting things in their mouths is an important developmental tool that aids babies in sensory development, feeding, and motor skills. Because of this, I don't mind if my son mouths hes own books. I just make sure to only keep board books and cloth books out at his level. (Did you know you can buy teething books? Amazon has quite a few options.) When we read paper books or library books, I give Finley a binkie or teether to suck on instead. This fulfills his oral sensory needs without causing any damage to the book.
I like to think this can also help keep him from being overly exposed to germs left on library books by hundreds of other children who have read/chewed on them before us. However, that's mostly theoretical since we both touch the books and we both constantly have out hands in his mouth (him for play and me for fishing out stray hairs. #postpartumhairloss) So even though the world is a gross, germy place and just touching library books is enough to test the effectiveness of your flu shot, I skill try to keep communal items out of my baby's mouth just in case it helps. Plus, I'd like the books to stay in good shape for your kiddos to enjoy them too.
Put Hair Bands Around the Pages of Board Books
If your child is struggling to separate the pages of a board book try placing elastic hair bands around each page. Cardboard pages of books for young children don't have the same give as paper pages and they can be hard to separate. If you've ever tried to read a board book with one hand while feeding/snuggling/hopelessly trying to contain your child with the other you know what I mean.
This quick and easy hack can help foster your child's sense of independence and autonomy by allowing them to explore books without help. It also promotes pincher grasp development because baby can turn the page by grabbing it with just their fingertips.
***You can use rubber bands, but they could break and become a choking hazard, or your child could accidentally snap themselves, so be cautious if you decide to use them.
Add Your Own Spin
Babies LOVE repetition. They will happily listen to "Good Night Moon" for the umpteenth time. Their caregivers usually feel differently. Even a book you once thought adorable gets to be grating by the 157th reading. Next time baby brings you a favorite book that you'd rather never see again try altering the story or what parts of the book you focus on.
Try reading some lines loudly and others in a whisper. Break out your cartoon character voices. Vary your tone as you read to highlight which parts to the text are most important. You can expand upon characters' emotions ("Oh no! Her balloon blew away. Look how sad she is.") or praise behaviors you'd like your child to emulate ("He's sharing his toys with the other kids. What a nice friend!")
Skip reading the words all together and just focus on the illustrations. Point out characters and details in the pictures and relate them to baby's life ("They're at the park, just like the park by our house. She likes to go on the swings too"). You can keep it as simple as naming what is in the pictures and making corresponding noises (There is a cow, he says 'MOO'"). Baby will probably be delighted to copy your sound effects and might remember them next time you read the book.
Store Books in a Basket Instead of Lined Up on a Shelf
I'd never thought about it until I had my son, but bookshelves are pretty tricky to navigate. You have to hold the book vertically, make space for it between the other books, and then fit the book into the designated space without knocking any of the others down. And then when you want to take out a new book, you have to carefully pull out only one and make sure the rest stay in place on the shelf. That's a lot for someone still developing their motor skills!
To support your child at their developmental level, try storing baby's book in a shallow basket or box. This will also make clean up about 1000 times easier for you by setting an expectation your baby is developmentally prepared to meet. Instead of taking on all of the complex motor tasks listed above, baby can simply pick up the books, set them in the basket, and push the basket into place on the shelf. Quick, easy, and honors your child's ability level.
This simple set up also allows your child to easily look at their books during play time. I still can't get over how sweet it is to find Finley sitting on the floor 'reading' his books and babbling to himself.
Sing the Story
Many children's songs are also available in book format (but this also works for any story if you can think of a tune). Try reading and singing the book. I love the excited look Finley gets on his face when I read him "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and then go back and start singing it. If he could award me a Grammy he totally would. Some publishers also make recordings of songs from children's books available on their websites or YouTube. You and baby can look at the pictures of the book while the song plays on the computer.
Provide a Toy Related to the Story
Try giving baby a toy or household item associated with the book to hold or chew on. If your kiddo is being rough with a book, or just making it too hard for you to turn the pages, this is a great way to fulfill their sensory needs and keep them engaged in the story longer. It also makes a connection between the book and your baby's life. Point out similarities and differences between the toy and the illustrations ("Look there's a sheep just like your sheep. That's a big sheep but you have a little one. It's saying 'baaa', let's make your sheep say it too.")
Get the Same Number of Books Every Time you go to the Library
This is a mom life hack that saves me every week! Checking out the same number of books each time we visit the library means that I don't have to try to remember how many books I'm looking for at the last minute. I've got enough going on without having to run through a mental list of titles in hopes of remembering what we checked out. When we're getting ready to leave I can just look around for six books with library bar codes on the cover and hope Finley didn't rough them up too badly.
I hope some of these tips will help you and your littles to make story time less hectic and more fun. Leave a comment and let me know what book you and your kiddo love to read together. Happy reading!