Are you reading to baby when he’s asleep? Learn some amazing facts about the connection between reading to babies and brain development here.
What can you read in this article?
- Reading to babies research
- The benefits of reading to babies
- How should you read to your baby?
You may have heard that reading to your baby supports his growth and development. Not to forget, it also helps him develop language skills at a much faster rate. So it may not come as a surprise that a recent study proved that reading to babies since infancy can result in specialized brain responses. This means that if you read to your six-month-old, he will be able to better differentiate between faces and species.
The study — in a way — proves that it is not just what’s on the pages, but the book reading experience itself that helps with these responses.
But does this mean that while reading to baby you can use any book? And should books for infants be different from books for toddlers? A study by the University of Florida’s Brain Cognition and Development Lab (BCDL) worked to find answers for these queries.
They wanted to uncover if reading to baby aloud, also called shared book reading, can help with brain and behavior development as well.
Image from Pexels
The benefits of reading to babies
Interestingly, the lab found that shared book reading had many benefits for babies. These include the following.
1. Faster language and cognitive development
The BCDL study took notes from another research by the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
That study uncovered that reading to baby aloud or book sharing can help in language and cognitive development. It also increases a child’s vocabulary as well his pre-reading skills. In addition, this activity is also beneficial in conceptual development.
2. Enhancement of parent-child relationship
The BCDL research quoted another study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their study. This WHO study stated that reading to baby aloud helps to enhance the parent-child relationship.
It encourages interpersonal communication and gives parents a daily dose of cuddles with their children.
3. Enhances reading and writing abilities
The study also took notes from another research by the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. This particular research proves that the quality and quantity of shared book reading greatly benefits a child’s vocabulary.
It also enhances his reading and writing skills in the future. So basically, the more books you read to your baby in his early months, the better his languages skills will get in the future.
The books you should read to your six-month-old will be different from those you read to your two-year-old. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
The benefits of reading to your newborn while sleeping
Should you even read to your newborn baby even when she doesn’t respond? Researchers say yes. In fact, another study from the University of Florida found that valuable information that suggests that newborns are able to learn so quickly from the world, even when they’re asleep for 16 to 18 hours a day.
“Sleeping newborns are better learners, better ‘data sponges’ than we knew,” said Dana Byrd, who headed the study.
“Newborn infants’ sleep patterns are quite different than those of older children or adults in that they show more active sleep where heart and breathing rates are very changeable.
It may be this sleep state is more amenable to experiencing the world in a way that facilitates learning,” she added.
Meanwhile, a University of Colorado study has found that what an infant hears during sleep has an immediate and profound impact on his or her brain activity, potentially shaping language learning later in life. Phillip Gilley, PhD, lead author and principal investigator of the Neurodynamics Laboratory at the Institute of Cognitive Science, said,
“We found that even while babies sleep, they are still processing information about their acoustic environment, and their brains are using that information to develop pathways for learning.”
Given these discoveries, it’s safe to assume that reading to your newborn while sleeping does have benefits, even if you don’t see him responding to you.
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Reading to baby: Here’s are the books you should pick up
While the studies proved that reading to baby aloud does in fact, benefit his cognitive and language skills, the question is: which books should you read?
The BCDL researchers also found that the type of books you read to your baby are as important as how much you read to them.
- If you show books with faces, and objects to your infants, they will show specialized brain responses in the future. But if you show them books with no labels or generic books with just images and a word to describe them, it might not be that impactful.
- Babies who are read to from books with individual labels (where each image is described by words) were able to distinguish between individual characters. For instance, for a dog, the book described: “This is Harry. He can wiggle his tail and run fast.”
- The BCLD study also found that young infants were able to learn a lot more about their environment through those labeled books. It also helped in their overall development during their first year.
How should you read to your baby – what parents must bear in mind
This study is a great reminder of the impact and use of reading on babies. The only thing that parents such as you and I need to remember is that not all books are created equal. Here are a few takeaways.
- The books you should read to your six-month-old will be different from those you read to your two-year-old. Choose age-appropriate books for each child.
- While reading to baby, you should opt for books that label characters and give them individual names as opposed to generic terms like “cat” or “dog.” If you bought a book that has no individual labels, then create some on your own. Give the characters interesting names.
- Make sure to purchase books that your child likes to see and touch and hear from.
- According to speech experts Speech Sisters on Instagram, if you want to teach language and speech to your child, it’s also a good idea to face your child while reading to him. This can be done on the floor, on your tummies, facing each other. This way, your child can watch you as well as the pages in the book, because watching your mouth and facial expressions is just as fun!
- You may also want to choose books with simple but fun exclamatory words that are also fun for the baby to hear and will get his attention (“uh-oh” or “oh no”) and books that teach functional words such as “In,” “out,” “up,” “help,” etc.
Remember that while talking to babies is important for their development, shared book reading can open the doors for faster cognitive learning.
We hope these studies about reading to babies and brain development convince you to pick up a book and read it to your little one. If you have not made a habit of reading to your newborn, it’s okay. You can still make reading a part of your daily routine so that your child could still reap the benefits of reading to babies.
Image from Pexels
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore
Additional information from Camille Eusebio
The Conversation, Scientific American, MIT Press Journal