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How to choose the right books for your baby

Mother reading to baby

By reading regularly with your tot, you build skills that last a lifetime. But what books to choose? Here’s your guide to the best books for your babe.

Recent studies show that children whose caregivers read to them from birth have a larger vocabulary, and more advanced mathematical skills, than other kids their age. Reading expands your young child’s knowledge, also increasing her performance at school, says Nubabi speech-language and hearing therapist, Lindi Bester.

It’s never too early to start

Even though your newborn cannot yet understand everything you’re saying, she is being introduced to different tones, rhythms and inflections of your voice and she might start to recognise and even learn new words, says Lindi. Reading with your baby also provides opportunities to grow the special bond between baby and caregiver.

From as young as three months, your baby will start focusing on simple patterns on pages. As the months go on, he will recognise different shapes, colours and pictures more and more.

After reading a much-loved story daily, you might notice your tot responding to the story, by moving or making sounds. Reading stimulates all the senses as well as imagination and curiosity, says Lindi. Don’t be shy of repetition; hearing a familiar favourite over and over helps your child grow in cognition and confidence.

Tips for reading to your baby:

  1. Talk about what you see: Instead of simply reading a book through, pause on each page, looking at, pointing to and talking about the pictures with your child.
  2. Use different voices for characters: By creating a distinctive voice for the giant, the donkey and the bird, you help your child imagine the story, bringing it to life. This greatly increases her understanding of it.
  3. Follow with your finger: Show your toddler that we read from left to right. This also helps your child to start visually recognizing whole words and sentences.
  4. Take a trip together to buy a special book: Take your child to the bookstore or library and let him choose a special book to buy or borrow. Bookstores and libraries are wonderful places to spend a little time browsing. Observe the themes that interest your child.
  5. Reference the stories you read together: After reading a book, refer back to it in conversations. Say something like, “Are you dancing like the ballerina cat?” This will help make her reading experience more valuable, and teach her how she can enrich her personal life with the things she learned about, or experienced through the book.
  6. Read in front of your child: Children learn by example. If you cosy up with a book and enjoy reading, your little one will learn to enjoy reading just by watching you, says Lindi.
  7. Make it your own: Don’t feel you have to read a book from start to finish. Your goal is to get your new baby comfortable with the idea of reading and to enjoy this special bonding time. Tailor make the story, or give the heroine your child’s name.
  8. Have fun!

Choosing the right books

It’s important to find the right book, one that fits your child’s interests, maturity, and reading level. Here’s how to choose the right books for your baby.

Seek out book types that have…

  • High contrasting patterns and colours, e.g. black white and red;
  • Buttons that make sounds;
  • “Touchy-feely” elements- with textures that your toddler can touch and explore;
  • Themes about our everyday routines (e.g. ‘getting ready for bed’; or ‘bath time’)
  • Safe construction: Hardbacks are great for your little one’s exploring hands;
  • Flaps that can be opened;
  • Repetitive events.

Some great reads for under 3’s

“Open books and you will open doors for future success,” says Lindi. In the words of Dr Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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