shared book reading

Reading books to babies: 3 things to keep in mind

It will probably be a while before you can read all the Harry Potter books to your children. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start getting your little ones excited about books at an early age. Books are a good way to build the parent-child communication described above and to practise turn-taking.

It is therefore not surprising that a number of studies have shown that reading books aloud has a positive effect on language development (e.g., Brown et al., 2018, Farrant & Zubrick, 2013). 

It is useful to actively involve the child in choosing a book. This can start with the selection of the book. You can put 2 or 3 books in front of your children and see which one they are more interested in.

My children had clear favourites quite early on. The good thing is, at some point you can already go through the books in your sleep (that is actually what I did because when I was chronically sleep-deprived it happened to me many times that I narrated from memory while I was already halfway in slumberland – ok, the interaction was not the best in these cases).

What book features are appealing to babies?

  1. Anything that is colourful and has big pictures.
  2. It is useful if you can do something with the book. That means the child can participate interactively. You can use, for example, tactile books or books with flaps. Many crackle or have built-in rattles or buttons to press. With soft cloth books, children can also help turn the pages at an early age.
  3. Simple and relevant text, i.e. something the child can relate to and understand. But it is also perfectly okay to make up your own text or adapt the existing one.

    The good thing about this is that you can use books for a long time. At first, the pictures can be looked at together, different aspects can be picked out (e.g. if the child is just learning colours, you can find different things of the same colour). Later, the story can be told in a simplified way until the child can understand the whole story.

    If you want to learn more about how your children’s speech and language develop within the first 24 months, have a look at this blog.

    For more tips on how to support your kid’s language development, check out this blog.

    Right then, grab a few books and start reading with your little book worms. Or find out the many ways you can read to hungry caterpillar to your kid.

    Take care,



    Brown, M. I., Westerveld, M. F., Trembath, D., & Gillon, G. T. (2018). Promoting language and social communication development in babies through an early storybook reading intervention. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 20(3), 337-349. doi:10.1080/17549507.2017.1406988

    Farrant, B. M., & Zubrick, S. R. (2013). Parent–child book reading across early childhood and child vocabulary in the early school years: Findings from the longitudinal study of Australian children. First Language, 33(3), 280–293.

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