Reading to Your Baby from Birth

Reading during the first year

Once the baby is born, you should spend time interacting with him or her as much as you can. The amount of sensory stimulation you provide for your baby in the first twelve months can make have a dramatic effect in the development of the brain. At this point, you are laying the foundation for future intelligence.

Sensory Stimulation

You can engage your baby's brain in many ways in the course of the day. For tactile stimulation, you can hug, kiss, massage, hold and cuddle your child. For increased auditory awareness, you can talk, sing and play music of different kinds. Playing songs in foreign languages may help the baby to learn those languages more easily when she gets older. Ask your baby questions, speak clearly, and avoid baby talk. Read different kinds of books to your child.

Visually, you can decorate your child's crib, walls, and nursery with contrasting black and white colors, which the baby's eyes can perceive more easily than pastels. In terms of physical development, turn your baby over through the day to change the view and to encourage mobility. Hold the baby in your arms, rock, swing, and turn her upside down. This is good for the baby's sense of balance. As the baby grows, make a safe space for your baby to crawl and explore.

Physical Health

Diet-wise, try your best to breastfeed for the first six months, at least, as this will increase the baby's immunity. When it is time to graduate to solid foods, encourage the baby to try as many new foods as possible. Take regular walks outdoors to let the baby get some fresh air and sunshine, taking care to avoid the times of day when the sun's rays are strongest. A baby's skin is delicate and can burn easily.

Teaching Babies to Read

In terms of education, remember to always be joyful, especially when you are trying to teach him/her something. There are several programs on the market that claim to be able to teach babies to read, from the age of four months on.

The most famous of these systems was developed at the Institutes for The Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. Glenn Doman, the director of the Institutes, together with Janet Doman, wrote How to Teach Your Baby to Read several decades ago.

In his groundbreaking book, Doman described the work of the Institutes in working with brain-injured children. Their system of teaching reading to these brain-injured children was so effective that they began to use it to teach normal children. They claimed that young children could not read mainly because the print was too small and children were unable to focus their eyes. The system advocated that parents use large flashcards with the words written in large red letters of about 5 inches height. The combination of the red color, the large printed letters, and the word being repeated aloud apparently enabled the child to recognize or "read" the word. In demonstrations at the Institutes, babies as young as a few months old were seen crawling over to a specific flashcard when asked to identify a certain word.

Since then, a variety of similar products, such as Little Readers or Discover Reading Baby Edition by Hooked on Phonics, have become available on the market. While their effectiveness has not been proven, it is a positive that such parents take the time to interact in a teaching mode with their child.

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