The Joy and Benefits of Reading to Infants

Kweli Archie

Reading to infants is like “watering a plant.” It contributes to the development of their growing brains and gives them a good start towards a lifelong love of reading. Reading to infants helps with speech development as they listen and begin learning about speech patterns. Infants tune into the rhythm and cadence of our voices, especially the familiar voices of their parents and caregivers. Although they may not fully understand the meaning, the infants are keenly listening to the sounds of the language and how the words fit together. As infants see a picture in a book and you name that picture, they begin to make the connection between what you say and the picture. The more you read the same book, the stronger the connection. The repetitive story line makes the book enjoyable, engaging, and simple to remember. Reading to infants also grows their vocabulary: first their comprehension of vocabulary and later their expression of vocabulary.

When should I start reading to infants?

It is never too early. No matter what the age of the infant, reading together is a great opportunity for cuddling and bonding. By developing a regular reading routine at the beginning, books become a natural part of the infant’s daily activities. In addition, infants will begin to associate books with delight and excitement.

What is the best way to read with an infant?

Reading aloud to an infant is different than reading aloud to a preschooler. You may not get through the entire book. The infant may want to hold the book and chew on the pages or try turning the pages. These actions are age appropriate and help infants become familiar with books and how to handle them. Make reading books a close cuddly time by holding the infant on your lap. Identify and name the pictures in the book.  Ask the infant simple questions and encourage the infant to respond when you point out pictures in the book. Increase the length and complexity of books when the infant shows interest.

Why is reading good for infants?

Reading to infants helps build vocabulary, stimulate imagination, and improve communication skills. The more you speak to infants, the better it is for their growth and development. The more words infants hear, the better able they are to talk. Reading to infants introduces them to the concepts of the stories, numbers, letters, colors, shapes, and information about the world around them.

What about audio books or podcasts?

It is more enriching to interact with infants reading books than to use any type of media screen. Nothing can replace the positive emotional connection infants feel when being held by an adult while reading a book. Experts recommend that media screen time is best reserved for children over the age of 2.

10 Tips for Reading to Infants

  1. Follow the infant’s lead.
  2. Read books written for infants.
  3. Store books within the infant’s reach.
  4. Do not make the infant sit still.
  5. Read with enthusiasm.
  6. Encourage interaction.
  7. Use repetition.
  8. Have many story times throughout the day.
  9. Focus on the pictures.



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