Reading With Babies & Toddlers

May 2, 2019
Reading With Babies & Toddlers

This week’s tip comes from Susan Straub MSW, the founder of the Read To Me program. Visit her website and read below for her tips on how to read with your baby!

Read with your baby. That seems to be a simple, easy recommendation. Really, I hear you ask? 

Even parents who have saved their own much-loved picture books from childhood might be baffled by the chaotic first few weeks with their baby. Babies are truly newcomers. In fact, all of us are new members of this family. It will take time to settle in together. Reading aloud might actually help. Here are some typical Questions and Answers.

Q: What?

A:  Poems or song lyrics might pop into your head.  ‘Tell me who, who wrote the book of love.’ or ‘Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled.’

Now is that reading? Well, yes. Your baby loves the sound of your voice. All spoken or sung words fall into my very expanded definition of reading.

Initially you can read/sing/recite anything. Do you remember Three Men and a Baby? Tom Selleck reads a blow-by-blow sports report of the famous Ali-Frazier boxing match to a 3-month old baby girl. It’s not what you read; it’s the sound of your voice that matters most.

All books are a kind of peek-a-boo game, a kind of what’s next with each page turn. Touch and lift the flap books are wonderful invitations into reading for the baby and toddlers in your life.

Q: When?

A: Your baby will indicate clearly when THIS is not the right moment. So, back off. You will find another time of day, or another position, when shared reading works. Maybe your baby will cry at first, or wriggle, or maybe even climb down off of your lap. Follow your baby’s lead. I promise it will get better.

Q: How?

A: The older the baby gets, the more s/he will be able to focus on pages put before her eyes. This is more akin to a standard image of reading a picture book with a baby. By 6 months+ s/he will help turn the pages, reach her chubby little finger onto a beloved picture, or speak the last word in the rhyme with you. Babies will judge a book by its cover, and typically recognize and choose one.  Be prepared to read and reread one or two beloved books repeatedly.  And remember: if the dog woofs in a particularly funny way the first time, you’ll need to do THAT woof every time.

Here are a few very brief video clips showing babies 2-23 months interacting with a book and a parent. You’ll see other parents following their baby’s lead.  Remember: playing is the work of babies, and they hear you even if they don’t seem to be paying attention.


Yours truly,


A brief description of The Read To Me Program:

Susan Straub MSW created Read to Me to encourage mothers to read with their babies Birth-2 years. Initially designed as an applied social work program, RTM offered a series of experiences with picture books, targeting young mothers and babies in a positive, non-threatening, encouraging way.


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