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Reading Corner: Of Babies and Books

Carissa D. Lamkahouan offers some advice for continuing your reading habit with a babe in arms.

With the recent birth of my third child, to say that my already limited time has now been cut in half is not an understatement. Between juggling around-the-clock nursing sessions and endless nappy changes while still trying to meet the needs of my two older kids, let’s just say my nightly (and sanity-saving) reading sessions have gone by the wayside. Woe is me, but such is the life of a mother, right? However, a funny thing happened recently in regards to reading in our home, and it happened in a way I least expected.


I had recently set the baby down to start dinner while attempting to monitor my six-year-old’s homework and keep an eye on my older daughter’s reading progress for school. Of course, in the midst of all this multi-tasking the little one began to fuss, so I asked my daughter to check on her little sister. I went back to my cooking and soon realised that my little one had quietened down. Wondering how this miracle had occurred, I went in for a peek and found my oldest daughter reading to her little sister, who was gazing up at her older sibling in amazed silence. My oldest was reading her book (which was required reading for her third-grade class) to the baby, who was listening intently. My eight-year-old seemed to be a natural at reading to the baby, using soft tones and expressive facial gestures. The baby was hooked, and I was so proud of my older daughter!


However, I was a little ashamed at myself for not thinking of reading to the baby sooner. As a reading/book columnist, you’d think snuggling up with my newborn and a good book would have occurred to me sooner, but it hadn’t. To make sure no one else makes the same mistake and misses out on one of the best brain-boosting and bonding exercises a parent can do with their infant, let me tell you about all the reasons to hoist your baby onto your lap, settle down and read to them.


Reading to babies from birth brings with it a host of benefits including the promotion of effective communication; aiding the parents in showing their little ones numbers, letters and colours; and building babies’ memory and vocabulary skills. To get the most out of your reading time together, pick books that are colourful and have rhyming words. Rhythmic reading stimulates baby’s brain better than other types of speech. Hold your child when you read to her and make sure the pitch of your voice and your expressions are animated and engaging to your child; this will cue the baby that reading is fun and will lay the groundwork for a lifelong love of reading and books.


As your child grows, be sure to vary their library to expose them to as many different words as possible. Choose books that have different textures so that baby can touch and feel and become connected to the book in a way that is not just related to the words they hear. Point out interesting pictures in the book and name the objects and colours you see. Even if your child is too little to respond, I can assure you your child is learning and benefiting.


Finally, as I’ve said before, reading is a great part of a bedtime routine so why not start it as early as possible with your little one? Set aside time before bed to add books to the mix, and, as your child gets older and finds favourites, be sure to let him choose his or her nightly read.


Carissa D. Lamkahouan is a career writer and journalist and mom of three children  a son and two daughters. She enjoys fitness, reading, and travelling to Morocco, the homeland of her husband. She has been a Muslim since 2005 and lives in Houston, Texas.