I remember deciding on a theme for my baby shower. It was “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” Dr. Suess themed because I have always loved Dr. Seuss books. And I love reading. It was a goal of mine to foster reading in my son. So I specifically asked for books on my baby registry in both English and Spanish so we could practice bilingual reading with our baby.
Now my son is six weeks old, and that goal has not changed. It can feel a bit odd to read to such a young baby, especially those first days after birth. But my husband and I tried every chance we got. (I wish we had read more, but hey, we all know how incredibly exhausting the first weeks are!)
In fact, experts recommend reading to your baby as early as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics makes the following recommendation. “Children who are read to during infancy and preschool years have better language skills when they start school and are more interested in reading. . . . In addition, parents who spend time reading to their children create nurturing relationships, which is important for a child’s cognitive, language and social-emotional development.” (Read AAP article here).
Research also shows that children who are read to early and consistently tend to have higher incomes as adults. So with all these wonderful benefits, what better way to set our baby up for success and the enjoyment of reading!
Passing on Our Heritage in Developing Bilingualism with Bilingual Reading
And while reading is been very important to us, our son learning Spanish is also so important. My husband and I are Mexican-American and value our heritage language very much, so we bought and received many books in both languages!
And experts agree that bilingualism is beneficial in so many ways, including improved reading skills in English! We really enjoy Lil’ Libros, which are geared towards infants and toddlers. My husband is reading Un elefante: Numbers/Números to my son in the photo below. Fostering language skills in infancy is crucial. And reading aloud with them is the best way to do it!
How to Actually Read to an Infant
Now it is easy to cite studies of the benefits of bilingual reading. But what about actually putting into practice, especially with a small baby?
- We have tried to make it interactive. We make funny faces and change our voice, which means that we position the baby in a way in which he faces us. (Like in the above photo of my husband and son.)
- Tummy time has also been a great way to distract him by putting the book where he can see it and reading to him.
- We have also put him in one of these Boppy pillows between us in bed so we both can read to him. My husband and I take turns with each page. (We do this sometimes before we get baby into his nighttime routine. Please don’t use the Boppy to cosleep!)
And while sometimes it feels a bit silly to read to a baby who may be more interested in the ceiling fan, keep reading because she or he is absorbing all this language!
And enjoy those precious moments in which you can cuddle with your little one with a little book.
Bilingual Story Time at the NHCC
Keep your eye on the NHCC website for their bilingual story times.