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Why Reading to Newborns is Beneficial

Why Reading to Newborns is Beneficial

As I sat there in the NICU, listening to all of the beeps and buzzing of the machines surrounding my daughter’s cubicle, I quietly read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” in a hushed, soft voice.  I remember feeling silly, thinking the story was more for me than my daughter, but I soon realized reading to children, of any age, is incredibly beneficial. Even reading to newborns.

parents reading to unborn child

Next to me, sat an entire stack of additional books I had kept at my daughter’s bedside, having spent several hours each day, for nearly five weeks at the hospital. Yearning to develop a connection with my child, who I rarely could even pick up and hold outside of her incubator.

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I would sit in a rocking chair, and read quietly through a slit in the plexiglass containment that held my daughter’s temperature at a stable 73 degrees Fahrenheit. I would exchange pleasant small smiles with others around me, while focusing on each storybook at hand.

As each day passed, I felt the connection I was striving to feel begin to develop. I soon realized reading to children, of any age, is incredibly beneficial.

Not only for the child, but for the parent as well.

Researchers suggest that we should begin reading to babies as early as while they are still in the womb. At approximately six months gestation, babies in the womb can detect the sound of their parent’s voices, as well as understand other sounds such as their mother’s heart beat and the gurgles of her digestive system.

As babies further develop the ability to identify their parent’s voices as they grow outside of the womb, they are also developing the ability to associate words with emotions, as well as connecting those same words with actions and outcomes.  

Emotional intelligence is something many adults take for granted, often discounting the importance of when it develops in young children.  Reading to newborns, babies, and young children helps develop their coping skills and encourages them to pair words with feelings and actions.

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The ability to feel emotions is something a baby is born with. For example, hunger is an immediate feeling babies will react to almost instantly outside of the womb.

They are able to articulate this emotion through physical actions such as crying. While this is a natural behavior, babies are able to further develop this physical reaction when they connect it to other outcomes.

For example, tiredness or expressing the need for a clean diaper, or if an article of clothing is too tight. Over time, babies will further develop their physical actions to better meet their needs and demands.

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Reading to newborns teaches them other dialects, other sounds, that may support another need they are looking to fulfill.

While a baby is developing understanding the difference in emotions, they are also developing an imagination. Reading to babies out loud is pivotal in playing a role in developing one’s imagination.

We are not born with imaginations and we rely on external factors that make up our world to help shape and cultivate this for us. Children who navigate through life with a vivid and strong imagination may possess stronger coping abilities in their ever day lives.

They may also grow up to take on roles where creativity is key to their success. There are many stories on the market that encourage make-believe thinking.

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In addition to developing emotional intelligence, reading encourages children to develop skills to write and draw, associating emotions with the ability to express them on paper. Children on average learn to write before they are able to read on their own.

So, this makes reading to newborns, babies, and young children absolutely crucial.

Before a child can speak, they learn their environment through the language they are exposed to.

mother reading to newborn

Stories catered to babies with shapes, colors and faces are highly encouraged. Babies especially appreciate contrast in the pictures.

Babies will identify shapes and faces in books and decipher the difference between emotions such as happy or sad in a picture setting.

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You’re never too young for a story book, regardless of what the story is about. Some parents find reading the newspaper, or something of the like, out loud to be a form of bonding with their baby.

Work-from-home parents may find reading emails out loud to their babies beneficial to exposing them to their voice.

Another major advantage of reading to newborns it the role it plays in speech development as they begin to speak and communicate. Learning the correct pronunciation of words will aid in a child’s speech development.

There is no need to baby-talk the words in the books; just read.

Reading will expand a child’s vocabulary, which will be a great benefit in early childhood. For example, your child may look outside a window and tell you it is snowing, before having ever been exposed to snow if you had invested time reading stories about various climates to them in the past.

Reading to your newborn

When you read to your baby, point to the pictures and talk about what’s happening in the story. No matter the age of your baby, you can ask questions about what they think might be happening in the pictures.

Even if they can’t answer you just yet, it’s vocabulary!

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Regardless of the age of your baby, whether inside the womb or outside, begin reading out loud as often as you can.

This leads us into the importance of developing memories and understanding repetition. Babies will soon learn routines in their daily life.

Developing a memory and the ability to understand a routine is a key factor in brain development for babies. Parents that read to their babies at the same time each day may give their child a solid foundation for building and nurturing a healthy mind with a strong memory.

Babies will remember the experience of reading a story with their parents as their brains develop. They will soon find comfort in the sound of the pages turning, the similar style tone in your voice as each page is read out loud word by word, and will soon connect the sight of a book with the experience of their parent reading it to them.

What a joy!

A great bedtime routine includes reading before going to sleep, too! There’s nothing like a warm bath, a full tummy, and a good book to help soothe your baby before bed.

Bonding time with books is priceless and I promise you will never regret the time you spent reading together.

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Saturday 18th of January 2020

I read o my boys all the time which maybe why my oldest loves to read,


Saturday 18th of January 2020

I've always read to my baby, bible, story books. I never thought of the benefits I just love it. Thanks so much for sharing the advantages xoxo

Akshaya @ Cabinet of Thoughts

Friday 17th of January 2020

Love these tips and great book suggestions!


Friday 17th of January 2020

This is very sweet! I've always right to my newborn's but I never knew if it had any benefits