Reading is such a useful skill. It is a fundamental building block for academic achievement, and many parents are keen to get their children to read early. But is it too early to start introducing books at 3 months?
At three months there are very few distractions in your baby's life. Once your baby can crawl, walk and play with toys, books just aren’t as exciting in comparison. This will make introducing books later more challenging.
At three months your baby can’t sit up unaided. So any activities which are natural take place whilst you are holding your baby or whilst your baby is lying down. To give your arms a rest, lie next to your baby on the floor or on a play mat. This will give you an opportunity to relax and bond with your baby.
Looking at books is a low-stimulus activity, but it is of high value. Reading to your baby will engage the brain and it will also calm your baby. It’s always useful to have the tools to calm a baby, be it at bedtime or whilst stuck in a traffic jam.
If you are introducing books at three months, you can’t just start by picking up a story book and reading through 10 minutes of text.
Instead, first consider your baby’s limitations. Before he is two months old, your baby’s eyes are not well coordinated and might appear to wander at times. By three months, your baby can see much better and focus on things that are 8 to 10 inches away from their face. But whilst your baby is able to see, that is not the whole truth.
There is evidence that babies do not see in the same way an adult does. They do not see in a continuous way. Instead, your baby will see pictures item by item. A baby at three months has not yet the ability to move their focus from one image to another.
So when you are choosing a book, it’s best to find one that shows individual images on a white background. The contrast helps your baby to interpret the images.
Ideally the book will be a collection varied pictures. A book showing a single character doing different activities on each page may be less interesting to your baby. The images are too similar to hold attention.
Instead choose a book that shows brightly coloured simple objects with sharp edges. Your baby is likely to be able to see them well.
Babies love to hear the voice of their parent, even if they cannot yet understand spoken language. Make your words sound interesting to make looking at books more engaging for your baby.
Animal books are particularly useful as first books, because you can name the animal and make the sounds. This adds interest for your baby and allows him to associate animal and animal sound. Often a baby’s first deliberate sound is a moo or a baah, because they are much easier to express than words. You want to encourage these early attempts of communication.
Getting your baby into books early is not meant as a shortcut to getting your child to read early. There is considerable evidence to suggest that teaching a child to READ early might be detrimental to his brain development. That’s because the ability to read comes at the expense of creative thinking. Creativity allows your baby to make up stories and to interpreting the real world. It is important for connecting the left and right brain hemispheres.
There are many training programs and flash cards aimed at getting your baby to learn to read early. It is probably best to avoid these. Instead, allow your baby to show you what he is interested in. As your baby becomes used to looking at the same books over and over, craft stories around the pictures that he likes looking at. This will increase your baby’s understanding and vocabulary. You will notice over time, that his attention span and interest in stories will increase. It is this state of mind, the curiosity in stories, which you want to nature. The ability to read is certainly important at some point, but there is no benefit in rushing a child to read.