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Baby Steps to Reading

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | January 31, 2013 | Early Education & Literacy

How to encourage your baby as a reader


We were in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office, and any peep the 6-month-old made was met by his mama’s “Shhhh!” She looked embarrassed about her baby’s happy – and wonderfully normal – babbling sounds.

I couldn’t help encouraging her to support her little babbler. “Oh, he’s so cute! He’s talking up a storm,” I said. “The doctor will be so happy to hear him babble like that. Let him talk to me! I love it!”

Not only is it super cute, it’s also a super important step to his becoming a reader one day.

Talking, listening, and playing are the very first steps in helping your baby develop language and literacy, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And it’s never too early to start.

The best way to ensure your child’s language development is to make it loving – and fun. Here’s a simple but powerful equation: Because your baby loves you, talking with her helps her love words, too. Because the love goes both ways, every giggle, smile, coo, and squeal almost magically boosts her language development.

10 Ways to Encourage Baby’s Language Development

  • Make eye contact.
  • Emphasize your facial expressions.
  • Use simple words.
  • Slow down! Baby’s processing speed is slower than ours.
  • Follow baby’s lead – when she responds positively, you know you’re on the right track.
  • “Answer” her coos, gurgles, and smiles.
  • Play little games with baby’s toes, nose, or tummy, naming each body part in rhythm.
  • Start early with books. Simple images and small, chunky board books work well.
  • Think about noise – minimize it when you can. Even “background TV noise” can be distracting for baby.
  • But most of all, have fun!

Here are some video ideas from me on how to play with baby to help promote brain growth, plus more of my tips on building your baby’s reading potential from the very start.

That’s how talking with baby NOW will support his reading ability later. How do you have fun with language with your baby? Please share!