Monday, March 4, 2013

Reading Up With Infants

Badge art courtesy of
Elizabeth Delumba
Today kicks off Share a Story, Shape a Future, a week-long annual event celebrating literacy for children.  Be sure to click on over to the main site for lots of additional resources and stories!

Reading Up With Infants

I am often asked by fellow parents and parents-to-be when they should start reading to their child(ren). My answer is always as early as possible! Reading with your child creates invaluable connections in the brain, in a child’s emotional health, and in bonds they share with others, including a parent. However, I also invite parents to be creative in their reading.

Let’s start with the basics. 

Scholastic recommends three key items when choosing books for infants (click for the original resource):

  • Sturdy books with rounded edges 
  • Wipe-able plastic 
  • Bold, high-contrast illustrations or photos with simple or no text 

It is recommended to read books in black and white and/or with patterns. Reading to infants is NOT reading word for word, but rather just pointing out pictures and exaggerating emotions. As a child ages, you can move into simple stories, rhymes, lift-the-flap, and touch-and-feel, making it a true sensory experience.

Now, let’s get creative. 

When I first became a parent, I discovered a few things about myself. I discovered that I became bored during feedings (my children ate a LOT during the day, with my oldest being on the above average spectrum). I also discovered that reading aloud did not come naturally. I have been a reader all my life, but reading a children’s story requires lots of inflection, different tones, different voices, etc. When reading silently, many of these take place within your mind and imagination. Reading them aloud can be more difficult to pull off!

How did I solve this? I began reading chapter books to my infants! While I had my captive audience, oftentimes during feedings, I would cuddle up in a rocking chair and pull out my latest book. This little time that was already built into the day became an invaluable time. My children and I had a very special bonding moment. I was able to practice for those more complicated read-aloud books to come. And, I was able to get in a bit of reading time myself, which can be so difficult after becoming a new mom. When my second child was born, my first-born even joined us, sitting with me or on the floor playing while I read the stories aloud.

Another twist on “reading up” with infants . . . find those times that you cannot read aloud, but proves to still be prime “reading” time (i.e, changing diapers, giving baths, relaxing in the swing while you do dishes, etc.). Turn on an audio book, particularly one geared for a younger audience that may also include music. Or, as your child gets older and you find that you have memorized the little board book stories, simply recite the tales. Before you know it, your infant will be grabbing for books and wanting to fill in sounds of their own!

Curious what books have worked for me? I leave you with a list of great books that my household has loved.

Read-Aloud Chapter Books

  • Anything by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is our favorite!) 
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton 
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis 
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi 
  • The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner 
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White 
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster 
  • Ralph S. Mouse series by Beverly Cleary 
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (I recommend sticking only with the early books. The darkness of the later books will be reflected in your voice while reading!) 

Books to Recite 

  • Anything by Sandra Boynton (Our personal favorite is Moo, Baa, La La La!
  • Dr. Suess (The shortened board book versions are great adaptations.) 

 Do you “read up” to your children? What books would you add to this list?


  1. It's funny, I can still recite the Boynton books we shared, but it never dawned on me to recite them without having the book in hand. Brilliant!

    1. Terry Doherty ... Thank you! I actually use it often in the car, even now when my kids are a tad bit older, and usually to break up the fighting!! :)

  2. Boynton books were a huge hit with my first son. My youngest son loves the Spot books.

    1. Growing Book by Book ... My kids never got into the Spot books, unfortunately. I love how they gravitate towards different ones though. It's like a peak into their personality!! :)

  3. Z always liked when I read-up something with interesting sounding words, like Alice in Wonderland or Edward Lear. Roald Dahl is also great, of course!

    1. Kristen M. ... LOVE Roald Dahl, and there is still so much more that we haven't even read yet! I didn't even think of Alice though. And, I'm not sure I know Edward Lear. Off to investigate!

  4. Love these suggestions! My 18-month-old gets read "up" to a lot since he has two older brothers. In fact, I have to consciously remember to read books to him that are more age-appropriate because he has a hard time sitting through the longer picture books.

    1. Amy ... That's a really good point!! I forgot to mention that. My son actually would be the one reading up to his sister when she was younger!! So adorable, but it is important to remember to read something age-appropriate as well!


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