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Reading to your baby
Activities for babies and children
July 5, 2023

Reading to your baby: when to start and recommended books

It’s never too early to read to a child! It has been proven that starting as early as newborn, or even while still inside mummy’s tummy, offers many benefits to both cognitive and language development. What are the best books to read to newborns? We take a look below. 

Why reading to babies is important?

Reading together with mum and dad offers many different benefits to young infants: from cognitive development to reassurance, from acquisition of a richer language to the likelihood they’ll become a more cultured adult. Let's look at each of the benefits one by one. 

Creates a moment of intimacy between child and parent

Reading aloud to babies is not only useful for building future skills, but also creates a moment of intimacy between you and your baby. Habitually sharing this special time together, will help build a bond between you both and become an essential and enjoyable part of your bedtime routine. 

Reassures and soothes baby

This is one of the reasons why we should start reading to babies during pregnancy: they become familiar to the sound of mum's voice and to the rhythm of nursery bedtime rhymes, which in turn, has the power to soothe them after birth when they become fussy. 

The sound of mummy’s voice provides newborns with intense pleasure, offering a sense of comfort and safety. 

Helps develop cognitive and language skills

A 2015 study by researchers Suzan M. Egan and Aisling Murray showed that reading to young infants not only helps them develop a richer vocabulary but also, and more importantly, favours brain development. 

Tests for literacy in early years showed that babies who were read fairy tales and stories from an early age performed better on cognitive tests than children who were not read to aloud. 

In general, we can say that a child who has been exposed to listening to stories, tales and classic nursery rhymes will have a richer vocabulary, a stronger imagination and creativity abilities, develop better problem-solving and logical skills. 

Instils a love of reading

A child who grows up with a love for reading will also become an adult who loves reading. Consequently, he/she will be more likely to develop a deep sense of curiosity and intelligence as they become used to expanding their mind and actively using their brain when immersed in books. 

When to start reading to newborn babies?

Right away! In fact, you can start as early as when they are inside your belly. Although it may sound a little bizarre, an unborn baby begins to perceive their external environment around the second trimester, i.e., long before the end of gestation. 

Reading to your baby when pregnant allows your baby to become familiar to your voice and they will find it calming when you read to them after birth. 

You can read anything to them, but it would be preferable to start with nursery rhymes for newborns and books especially designed for babies as they have a clear and recognisable rhyme to them. These type of newborn baby books will allow you to make sounds and noises as you read, which your baby will love! 

Which book to read to your baby during pregnancy?

We recommend three lovely books to read aloud to your bump during pregnancy as well as afterwards when your baby is born. 

“Everywhere Babies” by Susan Meyers.

Infants are sure to be lulled by the easy, melodic rhyme of this book. It's a true celebration of babies and the joy and giggles they bring. 

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Herd

The rhythmical text of this gentle bedtime story makes Goodnight Moon the perfect first book to share with even the youngest of babies. 

Ladybird Favourite Nursery Rhymes

A treasury collection of beautiful nursey rhymes, which your baby will love for years to come. 

What books can you read to newborns?

Actually, you can read anything to them, even the book you have on your bedside table. Your baby will just enjoy listening to the sound of your voice. 

The best books to read to young infants are those that have a melodic rhyme, such as nursery rhymes books; the steady, chanted rhythm allows them to better identify different sounds. 

For the same reason, babies love ditties and songs, especially those full of different sounds like The Happy Song.  

Although you might initially feel slightly uneasy creating character voices, reproducing animal and object sounds and using mimicry to tell the story, these are fantastic ways to engage and maintain a baby’s attention. 

Books for 3 month old – 12 months old

As Your baby grows and begins interacting better with objects around them, they also start to develop a physical interest in books: they will touch, taste, and look at books attracted by pictures and colours. 

At this stage babies love sensory books, soft books or books with buttons that emit sounds and lights when pressed. 

Reading together becomes a sort of exploration: you can talk about the pictures and guide them through page by page, in addition to reading aloud. 

Several studies have shown a newborn baby's fondness for human faces. Just a few hours after birth, a baby shows a clear preference for a picture of a face silhouette with clearly defined eyes and mouth over a complex picture. 

That’s why you can find several books for very young infants that show adult or children’s faces, where each face represents a certain expression corresponding in turn to an emotion: joy, anger, sadness, surprise. 

One of the most functional times to read with your baby is in the evening just before bedtime. This establishes a night-time routine, and helps soothe your baby as they fall asleep. However, like any routine, it is effective if repeated consistently every day! 

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