Books and Your Baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting a reading routine when your child is as young as 3 months old.

By Zoë Kashner
Nov 06, 2012



Nov 06, 2012
  • Most Babies Will: Enjoy tactile books with flaps, mirrors, textures, and sounds.
  • Some Babies Will: Enjoy simple board books with action language, and recall pictures, sounds, and phrases from their favorite books.
  • Some Babies Might Even: Enjoy longer picture books with a simple plot — especially if the plot has a pattern of repetition.

It’s 20 minutes before bedtime, and you’ve decided to start a bedtime reading routine with your 6-month-old baby. As you turn the pages of a sturdy board book, your baby seems so interested! She is grunting and grabbing at the book. You let her hold the book herself, and she babbles excitedly.

“Wow,” you think. “My baby loves reading!”

Then, she brings the book up to her face... and sticks it in her mouth for an after-dinner snack.

Birth to 9 Months
Reading to a baby can be hilarious -- and it’s also bound to be frustrating for any linear-thinking adult. Many parents don’t see the value in reading to children this young. In a 2008 survey commissioned by Scholastic, only 48% of parents reported reading to their child when the child was less than 1 year old. An additional 17% read to their children before they turned 2, and another 15% began reading before their children turned three.

This is also the age to introduce books with fun textures and flaps — children love to explore with their fingers and mouths as well as their eyes.

When you read to a young baby, don’t worry about finishing the book or even turning pages in the right direction. Just enjoy playing with the book as if it’s a toy, and read as much as your baby will let you.


9 to 18 months
At this age, you are beginning to hear your child’s first words. He is probably also pointing at objects and saying “Dat?” His receptive vocabulary (the words he can understand) is much richer than his spoken language.

This is where early reading begins to pay off. According to a study published in PEDIATRICS, babies who were read to regularly starting at six months had a 40% increase in receptive vocabulary by the time they were 18 months old. Babies in the study who were not read to had only a 16% increase in receptive vocabulary.

As your child begins to speak these new words she knows, now is the time to check out the plentiful “see and say” books. You’ll enjoy pointing out pictures and describing them to your child, and your child will enjoy pointing to pictures and hearing you identify the images.


18 months to 2 years
At 18 months, your child will begin to have the patience for “real” story-time, cuddled up on your lap with a pile of books. Mother Goose and other rhyming books will delight her ears and train her to listen carefully to the sound of language.

At this age, your child may want to “read” the books with you. He may ask questions, turn the pages back and forth, and ask you to read specific parts that interest him. Encourage this! He will also begin to request his favorite books, which he will like you to read over… and over… and over again. This will become an enormously satisfying ritual for him — and it builds a strong foundation for future success with books and reading.

Pamela C. High, MD and her associates at the Child Development Center at Rhode Island Hospital conducted this study. (See PEDIATRICS, Vol.105 No.4, April 2000.)

Milestones & Expectations
Age 2
Age 1
Early Reading
Child Development and Behavior