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Reading With Your Baby Is More Than Just A Snuggle Session

When we add reading books into our daily routine, often before nap and bedtime, we are teaching infants and toddlers a variety of skills. These snuggly moments are the easiest ways to introduce our children to opportunities to build upon and develop important cognitive, social, and motor skills.

When we read books to our children, often the same favorite book over and over again, your child is learning important early literacy skills such as connecting text with visuals and pictorials. One of my son's favorite first books as a one year old was Get To Work Trucks! by Don Carter. In the book the word STOP was emphasized each time we read it by holding our hand out and saying STOP. He began to do this himself independently whenever he saw the page with the word by first holding his hand up and then as he got older using the word with the motion. The repetition of our motion, the visual word, and the illustrations on the page became his visual cues to make the connection between the text and spoken word.

When we change the tone in our voice, add expression, and emphasize emotions we are setting the stage for our child to identify and label their feelings and how to understand social cues such as using facial expressions to understand unspoken cues.

The simple act of turning pages helps small children to develop their fine motor skills. Children will typically at a young age use several fingers together or their whole hand to turn the page. As we encourage them to turn the page gently and then to use their three fingers (thumb, pointer, and middle fingers) to pinch the corner to turn the page, children are developing strength in the fingers needed to hold and use writing utensils.

The simple act of reading a book not only opens up the world to your infant or toddler, it sets the foundation for important development in a variety of areas.

Here are some of my favorite books for infants and toddlers:

Colors (20 fun flaps inside!) DK Lift-the-flap DK Publishing, Inc. 2002

Pages contain photographs of related colored objects with fun lift the flap options on each page.

This book offers a great first experience with books and colorful images. The photographs are fun to identify with young babies, and children become active participants as they grow and help by lifting the flaps. Make your own color based book or placemat for infants to look at.

Sam’s First Word Book by Yves Got Chronicle Books 1999

From elephant to stroller, computer to overalls, more than a hundred colorful images illustrate the baby’s world. Young children will delight in recognizing the familiar objects and favorite animals in this chunky book that’s perfect for lap sharing and building vocabulary.

My children loved this book as older infants, and it was used so much that the binding is coming loose. The illustrations are colorful and older infants, as well as toddlers will enjoy revisiting this book as they grow and develop more independence identifying and labeling items. Creating a similar book with photographs of household items and family members will build upon this important language building skill.

Peek-a-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti 1998

Little ones love to play peek-a-boo! With the bright, quirky animals and oversized flaps to lift, readers play peek-a-boo with a different animal on each page. Each animal has a different sound which becomes part of the peek-a-boo game. Guess who? “Peek-a-moo! says the cow. “Peek-a-squeak! says the mouse.

This book allows infants to participate in the reading of the book by making related animal sounds and lifting the flap as part of the peek-a-boo game. The last page has a mirror so the child’s image is the last character in the game!

Baby Animals Black and White by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes 1998

This charming book introduces eight adorable baby animals featuring high contrast black and white illustrations and makes this book an ideal choice for the youngest eyes. Up-close images of a playful Dalmatian puppy, a cuddly panda cub, a striped zebra, and other lovable animals grace each page. A final two-page spread completes this charming book with a clever surprise.

This book and its pictures will appeal to young infants due the contrast of black and white images, and later offer opportunities for older infants to identify the animals. Readers can begin to make matching sounds for animals found in this wonderful book.

Smile! (Baby Faces Board Book #2) by Roberta Grobel Intrater 1997

This perfect snuggle time book is an ideal first read-aloud book, and a wonderful addition to the popular Baby Faces. This series has appealing photos of multicultural babies and toddlers and a brief, rhyming text.

What is better than a smiling baby! This book will make infants smile, and they will begin to recognize various happy facial expressions and how they correlate to the emotion. Older infants can help to recognize the diverse happy faces, and the reader can come up with possible reasons why the baby is happy.

Where Is Little Black Kitten? Lift The Flap by Virginia Miller Candlewick Press 2002

It’s time for bed, but Bartholomew isn’t ready. He has to find Little Black Kitten. Is she under the chair? Behind the curtain? Lift the flaps and find out!

This is a sweet story, and a wonderful introduction to hide-and-go seek! Toddlers will love to lift the flap to see if Little Black Kitten is hiding behind the object. After reading this book play hide-and-go-seek with the child’s chosen toy.

Get To Work Trucks! by Don Carter Roaring Brook Press 2002

This book shows a typical day for a group of working trucks: a loader, a dump truck, a digger, a bulldozer, a cement mixer, a tow truck, a crane, and roller. Each page also contains a turtle for the reader to find.

This book was one of my son’s favorites, and one of the first books that he demonstrated overt emerging literacy skills. On one page there is a stop sign. While reading to him, I would always put up by hand and say, “stop”! He began to put his hand up every time we reached this page and would say, “STOP”!

Train Song by Harriet Ziefert paintings by Donald Saaf Orchard Books 2000

A young boy watches a freight train go by on it’s daily run.

The repetitive rhyming text in this book not only appeals to young train enthusiasts, but also builds upon this important literacy skill. Enunciate the words that rhyme while reading, and build upon this skill by pointing out objects in the child’s world and words that rhyme with them. Where is the train going? is another fun activity to use as a way to build upon early literacy skills.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

It's bedtime at the zoo, and all the animals are going to sleep. Or are they? Who's that short, furry guy with the key in his hand and the mischievous grin? Sneak along behind the zookeeper's back, and see who gets the last laugh in this riotous good-night romp.

Although not a popular view, I was never a fan of Goodnight Moon. This book, however, was a favorite. Toddlers will have fun saying good night to all of the zoo animals, while watching the mischievous gorilla release them from their enclosures. The ending where the gorilla is discovered in the zoo keepers bed by his wife and all the animals in their room will definitely bring shrieks of glee. Children can create their own good night book and include favorite toys and/or family pets.

Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill 1980

This classic series is a must for toddlers, children will enjoy helping Spot’s mother search for him. Is he in the piano? Is he under the stairs? After finding other familiar animals, there he is in his basket!

Toddlers love interactive books, and in a day and age when parents are using technology too much, classics like this first lift-a-flap series are more magical because they are interactive and include snuggle time. As young children help to find this sweet puppy, they will smile and become excited when he is finally located. Play hide-and-go-seek after reading, and make your own version of a lift-a-flap book where you hide a photograph of the child under a flap in different locations/rooms.


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