When To Start Reading To A Baby

Before your sweet little baby is born, you may have found yourself imagining the day you could snuggle up with them and enjoy storytime together. Now that your little one is here, are you wondering when the right time to start reading is? 

You likely know the benefits of reading to kids, but did you know there are also benefits to reading to babies as well? Keep reading to find out when you should start reading to your baby, why it’s important, and suggestions for books for different ages. 

What Is The Right Age To Start Reading To Baby?

The right age to start reading to your baby depends on you. It’s ultimately never too early to start reading to your baby. You may want to start at birth or may opt to wait until you and your baby have more of a bedtime routine and include reading then. 

To make it more of a routine for you and your little one, start by around 4 months. Reading by this age has been shown to increase your chances of continuing to read to your kids while they’re young. 

Find ways to add reading to your day. Reading before bed is always an easy way to help your baby relax from the day. You can also read to them while you’re playing, before or after a meal, and during car rides, if you aren’t the one driving. Although, you may get to a point where you can recite their favorite books by memory (if you know, you know!). 

Why Is It Important To Read To Your Baby Early And Often?

Even if you don’t feel like your baby is engaged in storytime, they are! At an early age, the best thing about reading to your baby is all of the words they’re hearing. Hearing more words sets them up for having a more diverse vocabulary and enhances cognitive development. 

Reading at a young age also helps them develop socially and emotionally. So, while you’re reading to your baby, as they pull at the pages, drool on the corners of the book, and babble away, remember they’re getting a lot more out of it than it looks like. 

Cognitive Development

Reading may help with babies’ cognitive development. Cognitive development is the way babies and kids think, solve problems, and explore. Reading may help them learn about objects and animals they don’t normally have access to on an everyday basis. Perhaps you’re reading a book about the sea. In this book, they may see an octopus, coral, a starfish, and a dolphin.

Books also help teach different concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes. While it’s unlikely your baby will be able to tell you the difference between a triangle and a square (this usually happens around two or three), introducing these concepts to them at an early age can help them as they grow. 

Supports Social And Emotional Development

When you read stories to your babies, they may pick up the different expressions in your voice or on your face. If you’re reading a story like A Perfect Picnic you can add excitement to your voice when Bert, Ernie, and their friends start their picnic. As their day starts to not go as planned, add concern to your voice. When the ants come and steal their food, you can use a surprised voice! 

As you read stories to your baby, they’ll start to pick up on more and more social cues, improving their emotional development. As they grow, they’ll be able to use these skills to interact with other kids on the playground or at school.

Develops Language Skills

Language skills start much earlier than when kids begin speaking. Language skills actually start from birth. The more words your child hears, the better language skills they may have and develop. One way to increase the number of words your little one hears is by reading to them early and often. Language fluency is key for learning in school settings. Incorporating reading into your daily routines may help develop their language skills even further.

Creates A Love For Reading

The more you read to your babies, the more likely it is that they will develop a love for reading. Taking time to read together and talk about the books you’re reading is so important for their development in many ways, as we’ve learned. It also helps them develop a love of reading that will likely never go away. No matter how old they are, they can use reading to learn new things, travel to far off worlds, or meet new people, all through the power of reading. 

Reading should be fun, especially when your kids are growing. Once reading becomes a chore, it can lose its appeal, which is why it’s important to start building their love of it early. You don’t have to be the only one to read to your babies, however. Even if grandma and grandpa live in another state, they can share the love of reading with your baby with Caribu. Simply schedule a Caribu video-call with them and they can read one of the thousands of book titles we have through our app. 

What Are Book Suggestions For Different Baby And Toddler Ages?

Depending on your little one’s age, there are different things you may want to look for in a book. Here are a few suggestions for different age groups. 

0 To 12 Months

When your baby is under 1, look for books that are bright and colorful. Stories that have simple words, like “red triangle” or “three fish” are great for this age. Books with a lot of rhyming are also good for this age. The sing-song nature of a rhyming book may keep their interest for a bit longer. 

Remember, this age is more about them hearing more words than the actual story. They may lose interest quickly if the visuals aren’t engaging. If they’re in the middle of tummy time, try reading to them. They don’t have to be overly invested in the story to get the benefits. 

12 Months To 2 Years

Once your baby reaches 12 months to 2 years old, they may start to request or point to their favorite stories. They may be able to point to different pictures in the book like the moon or a doggy. 

Babies at this age still love rhyming (honestly, who doesn’t like a good rhyme?). You may also want to introduce books that incorporate their favorite songs, like Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, or Old MacDonald. Through books, they’ll be able to see their favorite songs come to life. 

2 To 3 Years

By the time your baby becomes a toddler, they may be more interested in more complex stories that are interesting to them. If they love construction vehicles, they may be interested in Construction Site: What’s Most Important? As you read the story to them, you can ask them questions, such as what color are the construction vehicles? Or, what is your favorite construction vehicle? 

Between 2 and 3 years old, they’ll begin to be able to communicate more about the book. They may also have a favorite book that they request to read over and over and over again. You may be over the favorite book after the tenth read-along, but they actually learn really well through repetition. 

3 Years And On

By the time your little one’s 3, they’ll have even more say in what they would like to read. This age may also have more empathy for the characters in the stories. They may also recognize similarities in their own lives and the story. If you’re from a military family, the We Serve Too! book series may help your little ones through experiences that have big feelings. 

At this age, you can ask your children more in-depth questions about the books you read together. How does this story make you feel? Can you tell me what happened in this story? Who is your favorite character? These are all questions that would be appropriate once your little one is 3 years old. 


While there is no perfect age to start reading to your little one, adding reading to your routine early on can help foster a love of learning in your baby. Even if it seems your baby would prefer to chew on their toys rather than sit and read a story, they’re still getting many benefits out of storytime. Reading to your little one improves their cognitive development, supports social and emotional development, develops language skills, and creates a love for reading. 

Now that you know the benefits of reading, what are you waiting for?! Choose a book that fits their age and interest, and get reading! Your baby will love the one-on-one attention, and you may love the extra snuggles too. 

Caribu is here for you when you’re looking for the perfect book for your little one. Grandma can even join in on storytime no matter where she lives! 


Read Early and Often | ZERO TO THREE

Child Development and Early Learning – Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 | NCBI Bookshelf

Shared Storybook Reading and Oral Language Development: A Bioecological Perspective | NCBI