Dad’s Workshop

(Back to the Front Porch)

Reading to a baby can be a time of quiet or excitement, snuggling and learning.  Parents and caregivers might wonder if the baby is understanding or absorbing what is being read, but researchers in child development have found that reading to a baby is important because the baby is listening to language, watching the reader’s mouth move, and picking up on changes in the reader’s tone.  A baby’s brain is developing at an extremely fast pace, and much of his/her cognitive development comes about in the first six months of life.  Reading to your baby enriches the baby’s development and can be a time of bonding for the caretaker and little one.

Grandparents often have the time and patience to read to small children and babies.  Grandparents cherish the time spent with their grandchildren and can act as positive role models for the child.  If a grandparent is involved in reading to a youngster, this gives the parent a moment to have a break or complete other tasks around the house.  Reading as an activity is inexpensive, requires limited mobility, and can be a comfortable experience in the home; it is an ideal activity for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.

The pictures below illustrate a few key points to remember when reading to a baby or child.  These points are easy to remember and offer a good starting point if you are wondering how to go about reading to a youngster in your life.

  1.   Environment  

A1In the first picture, Casey is 8 months old.  His grandfather is reading to him, and Grandpa has set Casey on a cushion so they both can easily see the pictures in the book.  Notice Casey is on the right hand side and also places his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder.  Having a favourite place to sit makes both the reader and child feel comfortable and helps the child realize this is reading time.  Feel free to use cushions, a rocking chair, a bed, or any place you and the child can share in reading.

A2Notice in the following picture, Casey is 13 months old, and is sitting in the same position while reading with Grandpa, even with his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder.  Grandpa found it helpful to have Casey sit on a cushion, on the right side, no matter where they read, so that Casey would remember what reading time is like.  You do not need to read in the same place all the time, but little reminders for the baby, like a cushion will help the baby settle in to reading.

2.        Sounds & Expression

A3Casey loves stories with animals in them, and likes the same stories read to him over and over again; this is common and allows the child to become familiar with the characters and sounds in the story.  In the above photo, Grandpa makes the sound of the owl in the book, “Oooo.”  Casey tries to imitate him and watches Grandpa’s mouth.  Babies learn to form words by watching the mouth of the speaker, so make sure your baby is nice and close to you when reading.A4A5Casey once again watches Grandpa’s mouth form the words during reading. 



A7Babies and children react to your voice as it changes – if you go from a low to high tone, imitate the sounds of animals, or laugh aloud, the youngster will be intrigued by these sounds.  Parents often talk to babies in “baby talk” and experts have found that the rise and fall in voice cadence (rhythm) is not only soothing to a young ear, but helps that child recognize emotion in voice.  In the photos above, Casey laughs along with Grandpa at a funny part of the story.

3.        Involvement of ChildA8

Encourage the child to find familiar characters on the pages of the story books.  Ask the child to imitate the sounds you make and the voices you use.  Sometimes it’s fun to make movements (ex: clapping hands) as you read to keep the child’s interest.  When Grandpa read to Casey about the blue heron in Brown Bear, Grandpa always pointed to the sky to show Casey where the bird flies.  Here, Casey has begun to point on his own to the sky, when he hears about the blue heron.

4.       Encourage Independent ReadingA9 

A10 Make books available to children and babies in places where they can reach them.  Children will look at the pictures and open and close the books themselves.  Allowing the children to play with books and become interested in them on his/her own will help the child see books as part of play.  Books with bright pictures and simple words are great for babies, and don’t forget about classic nursery rhyme books and fairytales for toddlers!


  1. Thank you so much for this post. The images are very powerful in showing Casey’s interaction with the story. I love the fact that he is always in physical contact with his grandfather…interesting. The passing of a story from elder to child through words and pictures is shown here as a very physical and intimate time together. I wonder how many other activities get two people this close to share a few moments? My guess is not many. Thanks again.

  2. What a great post. How cute is that baby looking at his grandpa reading aloud to him? A picture is certainly worth a thousand words here. Interesting to note where the toddler is sitting – up near the reader’s shoulder so he can have a better view of both the book and the reader’s face while reading. I also noticed how the toddler makes contact with the grandparent with his left hand in the same position in most photos. Too adorable.

  3. I absolutely loved reading/looking at this blog. The message behind these pictures is so powerful that without even reading the blog, the reader can truly feel/see the joy that little Casey gets from reading books.
    I can think of a better way then to strengthen the bond between grand-parent and child. The joy that both grand-father and Casey get from their reading time together is written all over their faces.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. As a “new dad” I felt quite connected with this post. Before my daughter was born I began reading to her in utero the Dr. Suess book “Oh Baby, the Places You’ll Go”. I have continued to read to her since her birth. As a teacher, I know the importance of introducing reading early. As a new father, I know how important spending quality time interacting with a baby one on one is. The combination of the two had far reaching positive implications for both my daughter and myself. I will grow as a teacher, taking cues from her, on how to portray a subject or a story in different contexts. She will start to recognize sounds, words and develop vocabulary and reading skills. Regular shared reading times will help imprint these skills, and strengthen our relationship. The photos of Casey and his grandfather are powerful. The ease of their relationship is very visible just from the photos. As a father, these photos reinforce the need to take the time out, with my daughter….”Oh the places we’ll go”…

  5. This blog has some very useful information for parents. I like the detail provided in describing effective means through which to read and connect with the child. Through my studies in psychology, I have gleaned knowledge of infant and toddler cognitive development. This blog reiterates what has been demonstrated empirically, that is, the importance of reading and stimulation in enhancing cognitive development in children between the ages of 0 and 5. Wonderful and informative!

  6. Leanne, this is a wonderful project! It really paints a beautiful picture about how important reading is to a young child’s life. I look forward to learning more as you continue with this project.

  7. What a beautiful interaction between grandfather and grandchild. The pictures show the positive interaction of the two, touching and expressing. Loved the pictures and showing the importance of reading to a child at a very young age. Very good suggestions in this post for the young parent and (grandparents) Thanks for sharing. Joni Dubeau

  8. What can I say, Dad’s Workshop caught my eye and I stumbled onto a post that I can very much relate to. I see myself in these images with my now five year old girl, but also I am reminded of my own father in many of these scenarios with any one of his four grandkids. I will say that the informative suggestions within the post would have served me very well five years ago as my daughter and I seemed to simply jump all those hurdles as we encountered them. From a very early age my daughter was read to regularly and I was reminded of the “page grabbing” days when her attention seemed spotty at best and only a vibrant illustration or catchy jingle would get her back. Nevertheless we soldiered on with our book in the air and lying flat on our backs in her bed as that continues to be “our spot”. It seems that to this day my daughter has a continued vested interest in books and reading time in bed so we will continue to allow her the nightly opportunity to do just that. Thanks for a post that we men can really relate to.

  9. As I read through this blog, I knew right away that I wanted to respond to it… The suggestions the blog presents for making the most of reading time with young children are indispensable. And the picture collection of Grandpa reading to Casey is delightful. It spoke to me and my own experiences in terms of reading with my twin daughters. Though they are 14 years old now and accomplished and avid readers in their own right, I remember like it was yesterday reading to them as babies. One memory that is a highlight for me is that of reading Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. For weeks at bedtime, I’d read them this book after they’d settled down for the night in the crib they shared. They lay side by side on their backs as I read them the story of the zookeeper who, while saying goodnight to all the zoo animals, unknowingly has his keys taken by the gorilla. The mischievous gorilla lets out the other animals and they all follow the zookeeper home for bed. I read this story with varied expressions and rhythms and even with singing, in the same predictable places, night after night. And night after night I would get the same wonderful reactions from my baby daughters. From the intent and animated looks on their faces, their excited intakes of breath, and the energetic kicks of their legs as I turned the colourful board book pages, there is no doubt in my mind that they were in some way, “understanding or absorbing’ what I read to them. The bedtime read aloud of course evolved and came to include the reading of countless different books over the years. This special bedtime ritual my husband and I shared with our daughters was an “untouchable.” It left us all with wonderful memories and instilled a love of books and reading in our children. What a great reminder this blog is to parents and grandparents alike, of the importance, potential and magic of reading aloud to the children in their lives.

  10. I think this is a very important blog for all caregivers. It reminds us not only of how important it is to engage in reading activities with our children, but that it is never too early to start reading to your child.

    This blog is very informative and gives some great advice on how to involve your infant/toddler in reading activities. Sometimes we have good intentions on reading with our children, but just don’t know how to get things started. The blog gives grandparents/caregivers some great tips about how to get started and how to continue to encourage the appreciation and love of reading/books in our children.

    I have shared this blog with my parents and showed them the pictures. We had great discussions about where to read and what to read. My mom, who has been hesistant to read to my daughter, has now begun reading to her not only in her first language, but her second language (English), too! I am so amazed because I never knew that my mom could read that well in English and I think she surprised herself, too. It has been a great experience for her and my daughter. I’ve been able to snap photos of the two of them enjoying books together that will be lifetime treasures for us all.

    Having books where children can reach them is so important to encourage independent reading. I noticed this when my daughter began pulling books off the shelf to look at her stories on her own. It was so exciting to see her interested in looking at her books and making stories to go along than heading downstairs to turn on the television.

    It is never too late to start fostering a love of reading with your children. It definitely helps by setting up a home environment where books are accessible and reading is happening on a daily basis for many different reasons.

  11. This is an amazing blog with a some fantastic information! I also love the pictures used!
    Reading aloud to your baby is not only a wonderfully rewarding shared activity that you can enjoy with them for years to come, it is also a great way to stimulate your babies developing senses, and build listening and memory skills that can help your baby grow up to be a reader!
    Thank-you so much for this post!

  12. This is a very important room. I think it is extremely important to be getting kids into books as soon as possible to develop and have that love of reading and being read to. I know that even children being read to before they are even born (still in the womb) have a big impact on a child’s future. It is an even bigger part to be reading to children when they are young because they pick up on cues on how to hold a book and proper way to turn the pages. I think it is a great connection building activity that fathers and their kids can engage in giving them the life long connection together. Having good quality time with a parents is important for kids to know they are able to go to their parents to talk about anything. Engaging children into books and having that quality family time together will make children feel much more comfortable when they are dealing with more sensitive topics from the books and in life, such as the topics that are dealt with in The Closet Room of the blog. I am glad there are pictures to show just how excited kids can be about books, reading and spending time with their family.

  13. I think this blog should seriously consider sharing this room with pre-natal classes and high school health classes. I think everybody, whether they read or not, would be able to take something from this entry. The pictures say it all! It is a beautiful example of how simple, yet profoundly affective a ‘shared read’ can be at any age. When a child is on the way life gets very full and although most people would appreciate the ‘heads up’, they sometimes are too busy to seek out this information. All family members could benefit. Not to mention the child!

  14. Thank you for these beautiful pictures. More than text alone, these pictures really show how children enjoy sharing books even when they are very young. We started reading to our children from birth and I have pictures of my husband reading to our daughter at about 3 or 4 months. I am so happy that we started so young; we have established a routine with our family of reading before bed that continues to this day. I’m certain that without the routine our busy lives would have gotten in the way of family reading. I agree with the post above that these pictures should be shared with new and future parents – they are so much more powerful than the message in text alone. We will be sharing them with our Family Studies classes.

    • Melissa, you are absolutely correct. I feel that new and future parents should see how easy it is to have fun and engage the youngest of children with reading. These habits start a lot younger than many parents realize.

  15. Wow, this is great. I really like the pictures and how they went along with the text. I enjoy watching Casey reactions when her grandfather was reading to her. Unfortunately, reading to babies from a very young age is not common in the culture that I come from. Many parents do not believe that babies can understand and enjoy being read to. Even thought, it is clear that they imitate their parents’ actions, talk, etc. I am really thrilled that I am having this great opportunity to be here and learning many new things (for me as a teacher, as a mother to be and hopefully as a productive individual) to bring it back home. I believe educating parents about babies’ ability to understand what they listen to, can make a huge difference for them and for their community. I believe reading feeds the brain and children should start reading in a very young age to be able to continue reading afterward.

  16. I absolutely love the photos of Casey reading with his grandfather. Both of my sons have a special place they like to sit and read with either my husband or myself. We have always made it routine to read to our boys every evening (as well as throughout the day) since birth. It is something that the boys look forward to and get excited to choose which books they would like to read. I think it is so important to read to children at a young age. My oldest son is now almost four years old and he loves coming to the book store or library with me to choose new books. He is becoming more and more inquisitive and wants to share and teach his younger brother things that he has learned from his books. The time spent reading with our children has created some lasting memories for us and will continue to do so for many years to come. It is truly a special time to sit and read with children whether they are your own children or not. Looking through the book titles on this blog, I have made a list of books that I would like to get to add to our personal library. I look forward to reading them and sharing them with my children.

  17. Dad’s, Uncles and Grandpas are so important to children! These pictures are fabulous and I’m sure the memories are just as good. I love that Casey has put his arm on Grandpa every time he has read with him.

    We also have a reading corner at home where one boy cuddles up on the red bean bag chair with the reader and the other sits beside us in his child size Ikea chair. No matter how hard we try this configuration is never changed! Daddy also loves to cuddle up in this corner to enjoy special reading time with his sons.

    Now that our children are getting older (7 and 9) we don’t read as much but we always have bedtime stories and will continue to make reading aloud important to their literacy development.

  18. Wow! very interesting and heart -warming to me.

  19. Ever since I can remember, I remember books, all kinds of books!! My parents were always reading us books, especially my dad. It is amazing now to be a part of that as I watch my nephews’ faces light up and the smile that crosses their face when they find a happy, willing participant to read to them. I love the heartwarming connection that arises between my dad in his role as “Poppy” as he continues to pass on his love and enthusiasm for reading to his grandchildren.

  20. Looking at these photos and the interaction with the story were heartwarming. I remember reading all throughout my life, and I love reading to any children who I have the luxury of taking care of. Books bring people together and you can see this in the interaction in the photos. I loved the looks of happiness and joy emanating between the two of them. I can only hope that as Casey grows the joy of reading is still a major part of life.

  21. That’s the cutest picture I’ve seen in a long time.

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