5 Ways to Support Your Child’s Literacy…Even Before They Are Born

There’s no better time to start reading to your baby than while waiting for their arrival. You may think it odd to be asked to read to your womb, but developing a reading routine before baby and chaos arrive makes it easier to continue after. This is a lesson I learned after my first son, Jacob, was born.

Even though you do your best to prepare for parenthood, it’s nearly impossible to comprehend what’s in store for you once that sweet baby is nestled in your arms. There are so many details to tend to and decisions to make. How are you going to feed your baby? Who will care for your child? Cloth or disposable diapers? How do those strollers and car seats work?

Most of us can remember a time or two when we felt overwhelmed trying to figure out sleeping and eating routines and how to get a shower in every few days. Establishing a daily reading routine with my child wasn’t high on my priority list when I was dealing with sleep deprivation and worrying about, oh everything, when it came to this new person. Was he eating, sleeping, and pooping enough? Many days I was in survival mode, which made it difficult to find time to read to him Every. Single. Day. When you’re lacking sleep and adjusting to your new role of being a parent, lots of things get put aside till another day; at least it did for me. 

Even though I knew it was important to read to my child, it didn’t happen as often as I would have liked in the beginning. I meant to get to it, but honestly, it was just one more thing on my ever growing to-do list. Once I began working in libraries, I could see first-hand how critical it is to be reading daily to your child. I saw how it helped to set them up for future success, not only in school, but in life. 

5 Ways to Support Your Child's Literacy Even Before They Are Born

I think I was a typical parent in my experiences. If I was having a hard time adding this into my daily routine, perhaps other new parents were too. Based on my experiences, I’ve developed an initiative called Womb Literacy. It entails working with expecting families to develop a daily reading routine before baby and chaos arrive. It also educates new and expecting parents on early literacy skills, so they feel more confident as their child’s first teacher. Womb Literacy won’t enable babies to read and write in the womb, nor will they be born knowing how to read and write. It will, however, help your whole family start forming that habit, so it’s already part of your daily routine.

In full disclosure, as I began writing this blog, I was also mentally preparing myself to attend college orientation the following day with that same son. How can that be? I still remember our first few days together. I couldn’t see then how quickly time would pass. Eighteen short years later, my 9 pound baby boy would grow into this 6’5” young adult man with a whiskery chin. Now, he’s ready to start the next chapter in his life, on his own. The days go by so quickly so please don’t put reading to your child off until “another day.”

Start now.

To get you started, I’ve put together 5 ways to support your child’s literacy even before they are born!

5 Ways to Support Your Child's Literacy Even Before They Are Born

1. Read to your bump and encourage everyone in your home to as well. You are your child’s first teacher. Reading to them sets a good example of the importance of reading and lifelong learning, right from the very start. Statistics show that reading to a child is important in getting your children off to a good start in life. It also helps them to be ready to learn when starting school. Reading to your bump is a great time for you to bond with your child. Encourage any other adults in the home to read to your bump, too. It gives them a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the pregnancy. If you already have children, reading to your bump is an excellent way for them to practice their literacy skills. It doesn’t matter what you read to them – it can be the book from your nightstand, board books, or work papers.

2. Sing to your bump.  Singing is one way children learn. It doesn’t matter what you sing to your bump either: nursery rhymes, your favorite song, or even the ABC’s.  Your baby doesn’t care what your voice sounds like! If you start now, you’ll be more comfortable continuing to sing to your baby after they’re born. 

3. Start building your child’s own personal library at home. Ask for board books for your baby shower or as newborn gifts. I guarantee it will take a lot longer for your baby to outgrow their board books than all those cute outfits. Board books will get used a lot more too!

4. Learn about early literacy skills. Kids need to know these so they can be ready to learn to read and write when starting school. This may seem like a daunting task, but it will help you feel confident in your role as your child’s first teacher. 

And finally, but perhaps most importantly,

5. Get a library card AND use it. It’s FREE and a valuable resource for you and your family. Become familiar with the programs and services your local library provides. Many libraries now offer baby story times and even summer reading programs for children from birth–24 months. Libraries are great advocates of literacy and lifelong learning and we’re here to help you with your child’s literacy, right from the very beginning. 

*Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Jennifer Jordebrek!  To find out more about her Womb Literacy program, visit Jennifer at the North Liberty Community Library, or check out their website (www.northlibertylibrary.org) to learn about the many programs the NLCL has developed to help you in this process! 

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  1. For my baby shower, all my friends brought their favorite children’s book as a gift–it was amazing seeing what everyone else remembered loving as children.

    My son is eight now and loves listening to books to help him fall asleep–if I’m too exhausted to keep my eyes open to read to him, then he has his favorite app, Overdrive, with downloaded audiobooks he picks out from the library’s website. He still loves picture books too. The library is a great resource for parents.

  2. Thanks for your response Liz. That’s wonderful to hear about your baby shower and son’s story time routine at night. Many libraries, including ours, also have a TumbleBooks database that has animated talking picture books and lots of non-fiction titles and national geographic videos too. Your son would love this; if you aren’t already aware of it. So happy you are able to enjoy reading time with him!

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