Does Reading to Your Baby Make Her Smarter?

Study finds benefits to sharing books with infants

Does Reading to Your Baby Make Her Smarter?

Good night moon. Good night stars. Do you know the rest? Many parents spend countless hours reading bedtime stories to their babies. Some even read to their swelling bellies during pregnancy. You might wonder if there is any benefit.

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According to a new study, your efforts with baby are well placed. Researchers found that reading books to infants can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school.

Kimberly Giuliano, MD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s did not take part in the study, but encourages parents to start reading to their babies as early as possible.

“It’s never too early to start. If you want to read to your newborn — that’s great,” said Dr. Giuliano. “They get in your arms, they’re comforted, they hear your voice and it’s a wonderful bonding experience for parents and babies alike.”

More about the study

Researchers monitored 250 pairs of mothers and babies between the ages of 6 months and 4-and-a-half years for reading skills and for how well they could understand words.

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They found that book reading quality during infancy was a good predictor of early reading skills.

They also found that a combination of book reading quality and quantity during toddler years was a good predictor of literacy skills, such as name writing, by age four.

How young is too young?

Dr. Giuliano said once babies begin opening their eyes more and become more reactive to the world around them, they’re more than ready for books.

She said even if they’re only a few months old, they can still learn.

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“Young babies, especially those under the age of one, love books that have a little bit more of a sensory feedback to them,” Dr. Giuliano says.

“They learn by developing all different types of senses, so if they can hear, see, and touch, it really helps them to understand the concepts that are being presented to them in the book.”

Why reading helps kids of all ages

Dr. Giuliano said it’s important for kids of all ages to spend time relaxing and reading every day.

“The more we engage our brains actively in reading, the better children do academically, the longer their attention spans are, and the more success they’re likely to have in school,” said Dr. Giuliano.