Raising baby readers, one page at a time

By: Amie Toepfer
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As parents we want what’s best for our kids. When I found out I was going to be a mother I had a lot of questions and concerns. They ranged from “What parenting style will I want to use?” to “What’s the best soap for my baby?”

As a librarian, I was quick to start researching and reading, but I had another pressing question, which was “How do I raise my baby to be a reader?” For a librarian, having a child who loves books and reading was (and is) a big priority for me. I wanted to ensure my baby would love books and stories as much as I did, now that I am almost a year into the process I want to offer my tested advice on this subject.

The first step you need to take if you want to raise your child to be a reader is to be a reader. I know how busy life gets and I also know that sometimes reading for the sake of reading gets pushed to the back burner, but now is the time to bring reading back. Make time and space for books that you will read yourself and you will read to your child.

It is never too early to start reading to your child. I’ve heard parents say, “Oh, I don’t need to read to them yet. They aren’t even moving around. They won’t even understand what’s happening.” This is completely not true. Read to your child as soon as they are born (or if you are like me before they are born). Newborns benefit from hearing your voice, so read and read often. Read out loud, every day. The book doesn’t matter so much at the newborn stage, so pick something you enjoy and just read it aloud. It is more about hearing your voice and experiencing the reading of a story, but there is a catch. Reading has to be lived. Turning on an audiobook or the television will not have the same effect; it has to be you reading. This reading time is a wonderful time to snuggle with your baby, which is something every parent loves to do. You will never regret the time you have spent holding your baby and reading at this stage. This stage goes by quickly, so enjoy.

As you baby gets older, the books you read start to matter more. Now is the time to start really exploring classics that you remember from your childhood and new titles that your library has. Babies who are read to are learning that reading is a fun and pleasurable experience. Remember to make eye contact with your baby, but don’t expect a giggle when you read that funny line at the end of the book. While it may not seem like your baby is listening they are. They are learning and forming habits that will last them a lifetime.

As your baby gets older you will start to notice that they will find a favorite book. It is OK to read this book over and over again. While you may be bored with it, your baby is finding enjoyment in it and that is what matters.

One of my favorite board books (and this was my son’s favorite book for months) is “Barnyard Dance” by Sandra Boynton. It is a simple book about farm animals dancing. The text is simple and rhythmic which is wonderful when you are reading to your infant at 1:30 in the morning. Another favorite book that has brought a lot of joy to my family is “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney. This book has wonderful pictures and a sweet story that will (if you are anything like me) bring a tear to your eye. Finally, I love to recommend touch and feel board books, such as “Touch and Feel Farm.” The books are amazing because they teach your baby to interact with books. They also are a fun way to introduce new sounds to your baby.

But the biggest piece of advice I can offer, is slow down and enjoy your reading time with your little one. Remember that you will get as much out of this as they will. You can find all of the books I mentioned at your Placer County Library. You can also explore other books by visiting the library’s website at and clicking “search the catalog.” You can also drop into any of your local Placer County libraries to explore the collection in person or get more recommendations.

Amie Toepfer is a branch manager and librarian for Placer County Library, Colfax.