Children reap great benefits from parents who begin reading to them from birth on. Exposure to books develops language, word and picture recognition, and creates a positive bond between parent and child. Reading that is started early provides relaxation before bedtime and inspires early interest in books.It is a well-known fact that children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school. Families who read to children just 3 or 4 times a week improve reading skills to 26% as opposed to 14% with children who are read to less than that.
But, what about the advantages for your unborn baby?
As a Childbirth and Parent Educator, I encourage parents to talk, sing and play music with their baby after birth, but there’s also something to be said for reading to a child in utero. There are numerous advantages to be had, both for baby as well as for the parents.
It is unclear whether there’s a connection to any later educational benefits, but studies show that reading in a relaxed tone, causes a baby’s fetal heart rate to drop. Reading prenatally, is a wonderful way for other family members, like grandparents or siblings, to connect with the baby.
Bonding is experienced that can help develop the child later on.
While preparation for the coming of the baby and the general health needs of the mother is vital to a healthy start, early attention through reading builds a wonderful foundation to solid future relationships. Pausing to read to your baby in the womb helps parents slow down, relax and experience the fun moments of early parenting. This can be a grounding experience in times of stress. Just by looking at a simple picture book, mothers and fathers can find a gentle peacefulness and excitement for what is to come.
So, at what point should we try reading to the little one?
A baby is already quite familiar with the sounds of the womb, from the mother’s heartbeat to digestive sounds around six months. From outside the womb, sounds are extremely clear, although lower in frequency. From week 25 forward, a baby’s primary connection and information to the outside world comes in the form of sound. By this point, the soothing voice of parents and the rhythmic sounds of a simple story can be heard by the baby.
Which books are best for little ones in utero?
As family and friends begin to give you books, you can use them. Using books with a clear rhythm and perhaps rhyme patterns provide a soothing, almost melodic listening experience.
Anything from Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle to Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You work well for this. Predictable books like “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” or “That’s Not My Puppy, Baby’s First Black and White Library” from Usborne Books are also perfect for prenatal reading, as well as classic repetitive nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
Whatever text you choose to share, the experience of reading will surely benefit your little one just through the sharing time spent together and the soothing rhythm of familiar voices.
Reading to the baby in your womb will give intentional calm time and peace for the parents and siblings. It is a time of family bonding and the good news is that you will set a precedent for loving books that will last into your baby’s life.
RN Spiritual CBE