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Reading aloud and sharing stories with your young baby is one of the most important and enjoyable things you can do. If you’re not sure where or how to start, here are some ideas.

Baby looking at a book

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Your child’s ability to hear, recognise and use sounds in her early years will help her have success later in life when she’s learning to read. 

 

Why reading with your young baby is important

Sharing stories, talking and singing helps your baby’s development. Doing this every day helps your baby get familiar with sounds, words, language and, eventually, the value and joy of books. This all builds your baby’s early literacy skills and helps him go on to read successfully later in life.

Reading stories also stimulates your baby’s imagination and helps her learn about the world around her. It’s a great time for you to bond with your baby and share time together, too.

You can start reading aloud to your child as early as you like – the earlier the better. Our articles on reading stories with babies and children and developing literacy have more information to get you started.

Sharing books with your baby

Even young babies can learn from the experience of reading books with you. For example, you can:

  • name familiar and new things – this can help your baby learn about sounds and words. The more words children hear, the more words they learn
  • change the tone of your voice as you read – this makes it easier for your baby to pick up on different speech sounds, an important step in learning to make sounds himself
  • turn the pages when you read with your baby – this shows her how to use a book.

Here are some general tips to help you make the most of reading time with your little one:

  • make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day
  • turn off the TV or radio, and find a quiet space so your baby can hear your voice
  • try out funny noises and sounds – play and have fun!
  • hold your baby close or on your knee while you read, so he can see your face and the book.
Visit your local library – it’s free to join and borrow. The staff there will be able to recommend age-appropriate books for you and your baby to enjoy.

What to read with your baby

There are so many books to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start. As a broad rule, babies enjoy books that have good rhymes, rhythm and repetition. This repetition and rhyming helps children learn.

From the time your baby is about four months of age, you might like to look for:

  • books with bright colours and different textures so your baby can hear, see and feel the book
  • books with simple, large and bright pictures – these are interesting and easy for babies to focus on
  • books with pictures of babies and faces
  • soft, waterproof plastic and cloth books that can go in your baby’s mouth and into the bath.

Here are some books your baby might enjoy:

  • Baby Touch Colours by Ladybird Books
  • Baby Touch Words by Ladybird Books and Justine Smith
  • Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Junior
  • Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Junior
  • Aussie Babies Can by Magabala Books
  • Aussie Toddlers Can by Magabala Books
  • I Went Walking by Sue Machin and Julie Vivas.

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For more story ideas, you could check out our storytelling videos. Let storyteller Anne E. Stewart introduce you and your child to ‘Mook Mook the Owl’, ‘The Crocodile’, ‘The Old Lady and The Mosquito’ and ‘How the Years were Named for Animals’.
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  • Last Updated 14-07-2011
  • Last Reviewed 14-07-2011
  • Anderson, R.C., Hiebert, E.H., Scott, J.A., & Wilkinson, I.A.G. (1985). Becoming a nation of readers: The report of the Commission on Reading. Washington, DC: National Academy of Education, Commission on Education and Public Policy.

    Centre for Community Child Health (2008). Policy brief No 13 2008: Literacy in early childhood. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from http://www.rch.org.au/emplibrary/ccch/PB13_Literacy_EarlyChildhood.pdf.

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    Saracho, O.N. (1997). Using the home environment to support emergent literacy. Early child development and care, 127, 201-216.

    Snow, C., Burns, M., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Zero to Three Publications (2000). Starting smart: How early experiences affect brain development. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/startingsmart.pdf?docID=2422.

    Zero to Three Publications (2010). Early literacy. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/earlyliteracy2pagehandout.pdf.