This is some advice from Jim Trelease, author of the landmark Read Aloud Handbook, and others on how to read aloud to babies.
- Hold babies in our arms in a way that shows support and affection but not imprisonment.
- Very young children enjoy touching books. We should encourage this, but babies are often not very gentle with books. They may be more interesting in sucking on the pages or pulling on them than in looking at the pictures and listening to us read. Fortunately, a whole range of durable books have been made from materials such as plastic and board. Nonetheless, we should be concerned about the possible health risks of babies putting books in their mouths.
- Babies will enjoy participating. As they develop, they can turn pages, point at objects and make sounds.
- Sometimes, babies need to settle down a bit before they are ready for reading. Dads should not give up if all they seem to want to do is turn five pages at a time. Instead, they should look for times when infants seem to be in the mood to be read to, such as a bit before nap time.
- Wordless picture books are especially nice for babies and toddlers. Older children can use them as well, by joining us in making up words to go with the pictures.
- If infants or toddlers aren’t paying much attention when we are reading to them, one tactic we can use is to change the story and put the children into the story by using their names, the names of family members and places they are familiar with.
- Another way to calm inattentive babies and toddlers is to give them something to play with while they listen, such as a toy or a set of keys.
- Don’t always expect too much in the way of response from babies. Have faith that they are listening and absorbing, and that there will be benefits down the path.
Dad reminder: You can start to read to your kids at ANY age. It’s fun for the kids and dad. It really is a dad duty!
– George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D.
Dr. George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Dr. Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D. are the authors of many books (including “The Read Aloud Guide”, textbooks for teachers and students, curriculum guides, and children’s storybooks).
Find out more about reading aloud to your kids.