Q: I hear so much about the importance of reading to your baby. But my 6-month-old only seems interested in eating the book. Any suggestions?
A: There has been a lot of attention recently on the importance of reading and the critical role it plays in helping a child succeed in school. Clearly you are actively promoting these skills by introducing your 6-month-old to the joy of books. She, in turn, is showing you how much she likes them: by chewing and mouthing their pages.
Babies explore the world through their senses—using their eyes, hands, and mouths. Mouthing is not only normal, it’s one of the first and most useful ways that babies gather information about the shape, size, and texture of the objects in their world. Books, with their bright colors and flapping pages, are especially fascinating, so your daughter is doing all she can to learn more about these funny and delightful square things.
Some parents wonder why it is important to read to a baby who is not even using words yet. But it is actually in these early months and years that the foundation for talking and reading is being built. As you read to your child, she is learning to tune into the sounds of her home language and is becoming familiar with the rhythm of speech. And hearing words over and over helps her eventually learn their meaning.
Reading also nurtures a love of and interest in books. The goal at this age is for book exploration to be a pleasurable and positive experience that makes your child eager to keep interacting with and learning about books. So go ahead and give your child chunky board books or soft cloth books that she can safely explore and chew on. Offering these kinds of books will limit your having to say “No,” or having to take the book away, which can lead to negative feelings about books. Until she is a little older and can safely handle paper pages, you may want to keep that treasured copy of Goodnight, Moon out of reach.