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Reading with your baby

Start reading to your baby from birth. Reading together helps you bond with your baby. This is because you create a time to snuggle and share a special moment.

When babies are not moving around during the first few months you have a captive audience for reading aloud.

By 6 months they will begin exploring and books are one of the best toys for them.

Watch a video on the benefits of reading to your baby

Benefits of starting to read early

The first few years of life is a time of rapid brain development.

The benefits of reading to your baby include:

  • soothing and comfort - hearing your voice calms your baby as they recognise it from before birth
  • learning new words - books often have language that you do not use in other conversations
  • attention and listening skills - books help create a culture of reading and learning in your family

Choosing books to read

High contrast black and white books are best for newborns. Their vision is limited so this helps them to understand what they are seeing.

These books usually have large pictures with one image on each page. They can be made of soft material or harder 'board books'.

After 6 months board books are best. Your baby can turn the pages and play with the book without damaging it.

Choose ones that have:

  • photographs of early objects - this helps connect books with the real world
  • textured surfaces and sounds - this helps sensory development
  • bright colours - this helps engage your baby
  • short, simple sentences - this helps your baby hear the key words of language
  • lots of repetition and rhymes

Watch a video on book recommendations for babies up to age 2

How to read to a newborn

Make sure you have a quiet setting free from distractions. Turn off the TV and put your phone away.

Snuggle up and begin by reading for a few minutes. You do not have to read the book from cover to cover.

Sometimes you might read the text. At other times you can point and name things you see in the pictures.

Follow your baby’s lead and make it a positive experience. Over time your baby may start to look forward to the routine by kicking their legs and cooing with excitement.

How to read for 6 months and up

From 6 months on babies love to explore books in their own way. They may want to go through the pages quickly, stay on their favourite page the whole time or even chew on the book.

Let your baby be in charge. If they're interested in something, spend more time on it. Describe what you see. For example, you can point to the book and say ‘I see the sock’.

Relate what you see in the book to real life. In this case you could point to your baby’s sock then to yours to make the connection. Repeat the words as many times as you can while holding their interest.

From 1 to 2 years babies may have particular books that are favourites. They also may begin to repeat words along with you when you read a familiar book.

This shows their emerging language skills. Babies learn through repetition, so repeat the book over and over.

Watch a video on how to read to your baby

Page last reviewed: 1 February 2022
Next review due: 1 February 2025

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.