Why reading with babies is important
Sharing stories, talking and singing helps your baby’s development in many ways.
Doing these activities 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 them go on to read successfully later in life.
Reading stories also stimulates your baby’s imagination and helps them learn about the world around them. It’s a great time for you to bond with your baby and share time together too.
You can start reading aloud to your baby early – 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 babies
Even young babies can learn from the experience of reading books with you. Here’s how you can help your baby learn:
- Read slowly and spend time on each page after you read the words. This lets your baby focus on the shape of words and pictures.
- Turn the pages when you read with your baby. This shows your baby how to use a book.
- Point out and name familiar and new things your baby sees on the page, instead of reading the 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, which is an important step towards your baby learning to make sounds.
Here are some general tips to help you make the most of reading time with babies and children:
- Set up a special reading space at home – for example, a chair, lounge or beanbag that’s big and comfortable enough for you and baby, with a box of books or bookshelf nearby.
- Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day. For example, sharing a book can be a relaxing way to end the day.
- Turn off the TV or radio, put your phone on silent, 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 your child can see your face and the book.
- Be guided by your baby’s interest. There’ll be days when babies and children don’t want to spend a long time reading, and that’s OK.
Visit your local library – it’s free to join and borrow. The staff will be able to recommend age-appropriate books for you and your baby to enjoy.
What to read with babies
In general, babies enjoy books that have good rhymes, rhythm and repetition. Repetition and rhymes help children learn.
From when your baby is born, you might like to look for:
- books with bright colours or simple, large and high-contrast pictures like black and white pictures – these are interesting and easy for babies to focus on
- books with different textures so your baby can hear, see and feel the book
- 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:
- Aussie babies can by Magabala Books
- Aussie toddlers can by Magabala Books
- Boo! by Margaret Wild
- Brown bear brown bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Junior
- Crocodile beat by Gail Jorgensen and Patricia Mullins
- Everywhere babies by Susan Meyers
- How many kisses do you want tonight? by Varsha Bajaj
- I went walking by Sue Machin
- Moo, baa, la la la! by Sandra Boynton
- Polar bear polar bear, What do you hear? by Bill Martin Junior
- Ten little fingers and ten little toes by Mem Fox
- Ten little owls by Renee Treml
- Walking through the jungle by Julie Lacome
- Who? A celebration of babies by Robie Harris.
For more story ideas, let storyteller Anne E. Stewart introduce you and your child to ‘Mook Mook the owl’, ‘The crocodile’ and ‘The old lady and the mosquito’.