Let’s get started!

12583532_sSo, you’re convinced: reading to your soon-to-be-born baby is a very good idea. But you’re wondering, how should I begin? Well, you’ve come to the right place—here are some answers to the questions we hear most.

When do I start? You can begin reading to your child in the womb at any time during your pregnancy, but current research shows that the baby’s hearing and memory are more developed in the last trimester, and that they actually begin learning language during these months. Check out this link to learn more.

How do I begin? First establish a time of day that will be devoted to sharing this special time—20 minutes or so—with your baby. Remember, you’re making a commitment to read to your child now and for many years in the future, so choose a time of day that will feel right over the long term. Before you know it, this special reading time will become ingrained in your family’s daily routine, and will be cherished and anticipated by both you and your baby.

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Where should I read? Find a quiet and comfortable spot in your home where you can snuggle up with a book, and maybe a cup of tea. Pick a location where you won’t be interrupted—this will become a sacred place for you and your baby, and this time should be as calming and soothing for you as it will be for your child. Lean back comfortably and take a few slow, deep breaths before beginning to read; you’ll find yourself feeling more calm as your heartbeat and breathing slow down. This relaxation and the beneficial hormones it produces will immediately pass to your baby and you’ll both feel connected and peaceful.

What should I read? The evidence shows that anything rhythmic, repetitive, and rhyming is best—babies will remember such sounds if they’re read regularly and they will actually respond positively to the story after they’re born. Check out this amazing TED talk by Annie Murphy Paul for more on that.

You don’t need to speak more loudly than usual; the baby has prime seating and the acoustics are excellent! Check out these previous posts for some fun story suggestions: Reading Roundup and The Gift of Reading to Your Baby in Utero.

ReadtoBabyI had my baby—now what? Once you’ve established your cozy regular reading time during pregnancy, it will be a breeze to continue after your baby is born. Hold your baby close and read the stories you both know so well. You will be amazed to see that your baby is instantly calmed and settled as you read a familiar story, and you’ll see with your own eyes what all the research has been telling us: that reading to your baby in the womb has a powerful effect on a child’s well-being and development. Daddy, siblings, even grandparents can take part in reading time before and after birth. What a good feeling it will be to have established this loving family routine that will continue for years to come!

Not only is reading to your baby before and after it’s born a great idea for family bonding and early literacy development, but there’s a wealth of research that demonstrates the benefits. Please check out this post  for more information: Why Should I Read to My Baby Before Birth?

And be sure to listen to the Reading Womb Podcast for even more in-depth information.

If you have more questions about in utero reading, or would like to share about your own experiences, we can be can be reached by email at preliteracy.partners@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon, and remember . . .

Never

Conclusive evidence!

“Even in late gestation, babies are doing what they’ll be doing throughout infancy and childhood—learning about language.”

—Dr. Christine Moon, Pacific Lutheran University

17160876_sListen up, expectant parents! You must have heard the news about the most recent research on prenatal learning—it’s been widely reported over the last couple of weeks, by The New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, the BBC, and NPR, to name a few. And it provides the most definitive evidence yet that babies hear, remember and learn from inside the womb!

Christine Moon, the lead author of the study, is a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. She says that the study results show that babies can learn prenatally and that they are attuned to particular speech sounds of a mother’s language. It would be hard to argue with her powerful evidence.

Newborn babies can’t talk, but they can suck, and scientists used a pacifier connected to a computer to determine whether or not babies recognized sounds they had been exposed to. When a newborn hears or experiences something familiar, the sucking response slows down, and conversely, it increases for unfamiliar stimuli. Through this method, Dr. Moon discovered that brand-new babies recognized specific vowel sounds as they were spoken by their mothers.

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And since it’s highly unlikely that these vowel sounds were learned in the short time after birth, the obvious conclusion was that “babies’ understanding of the difference between native and nonnative sounds could be attributed only to prenatal learning.”

Says Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study, “The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain.The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them.” So when you speak to your child in the womb, your baby is latching onto your words and your voice, and especially to those vowel sounds. The ooo’s , eee’s, and ahh’s are what your baby hears and remembers best.

If you’ve been following the Reading Womb, then you’re familiar with the incredible wealth of research showing what babies in the womb are capable of. It all started with that famous 1984 DeCasper study that demonstrated a newborn’s ability to remember a story (The Cat in the Hat) that was read prenatally. Many other studies have since shown that babies recognize music, nursery rhymes, and their native language due to hearing them from inside the womb.

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Many research studies around the globe have shown that newborns are born ready to learn and begin to discriminate between language sounds within the first months of life. We at the Reading Womb have long inferred from the research that babies are learning language from inside the womb, but this most recent study gives concrete evidence that it is absolutely true.

“This is the first study that shows fetuses learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother’s language,” said Dr. Moon. “This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth.”

Well, doesn’t the message come through loud and clear? Reading to your baby in your belly is not a crazy idea—as a matter of fact, it’s quite a brilliant idea! And may we go a step further to suggest that you choose a rhyming, rhythmic story to read to your little one? Many of the studies (see our Research links in the sidebar) strongly indicate that babies remember patterns, rhythms, and beats heard from inside the womb, and this most recent research shows that babies hear and remember specific vowel sounds. You can choose books for your baby that have both rhyming and repetitive vowel sounds.

Chicka

Listen to the wonderful beat and strong repeated vowels sounds in this excerpt from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault:

A told B and B told C,

“I’ll meet you at the top of the

coconut tree.”

“Whee,” said D to E, F, G,

“I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut tree.”

Chicka chicka boom boom

Will there be enough room?

Hush

And this lovely snippet from Caldecott Medal winner Hush, by Mingfong Ho:

White duck, white duck,

don’t come beeping.

Can’t you see that Baby’s sleeping?

White duck, white duck,

don’t you cry.

My baby’s sleeping right nearby.

If you’re a new visitor to the Reading Womb, please check out our earlier posts for in-depth discussion of the research supporting prenatal reading, as well as recommendations for books and poems to read to your baby-to-be. And please leave a comment about your own experiences!

Why should I read to my baby before birth?

OK, so you’re intrigued. Reading to your baby in the womb seems like a fun way to connect with your expected child. But did you know there’s a heap of research that supports the benefits of this practice? We thought we’d give you a quick breakdown of some of these findings, and point you toward further details.

You might also want to check out this fascinating TED.com talk by Annie Murphy Paul. It’s a synopsis of the latest discoveries in the exciting field of fetal origins.

The Benefits of Prenatal Reading

Your baby will become familiar with your unique voice.

Your baby will begin to learn language.

A familiar rhythmic story will soothe your newborn.

When you take time to relax and read, your baby relaxes, too.

Bonding with your baby prenatally benefits his future health and emotional well-being.

  • When a pregnant woman feels love for her expected child in the womb, she releases endorphins (“feel good” hormones), which trigger the same hormone release in the baby.
  • The baby becomes accustomed to these hormones and mimics the mother’s positive physiological response.
  • The result is a baby who has unhindered physical, cognitive, and neurological growth, and who is born with a general sense of safety and well-being.
  • See: Prenatal Bases of Development of Speech and Language and Prenatal Stimulation.

The more words your baby hears, the better adjusted and more successful she will be in life.

Reading to your child before and after birth strengthens family and social bonds.

  • Establishing a routine around reading creates a sacred, centered, regular time devoted to you and your child.
  • This helps expectant parents and siblings develop a relationship with the baby before birth, easing the transition into parenthood and siblinghood.
  • It’s also an opportunity for others (grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends) to get involved in the prenatal bonding process.
  • In the bigger picture, family reading helps establish a culture in which literacy and language are a priority.
  • See, again: Prenatal Bases of Development of Speech and Language and Prenatal Stimulation.

The Research Confirms: It’s Never Too Early!

Pretty convincing, isn’t it? Now that you’ve seen all the research that supports in utero reading, it seems the real question is, why wouldn’t an expectant family read to their baby before birth? It’s so clearly the right thing to do!