Is there a budding family on your holiday list? An excited pregnant someone and/or her partner? If someone you love is expecting a baby, there’s one present that gives the gifts of parental bonding, early learning, and joyful anticipation all rolled into one: a book to read to the baby in the womb.
If you’ve been following our blog, you know that the research says that the best stories for reading to your baby before birth are those that are rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive. Babies in utero respond best to this type of auditory stimulation, and studies deﬁnitively prove that these kinds of stories are the best remembered and have the most soothing effect on newborns! The following list includes fun rhyming stories that parents and baby will enjoy before and after birth.
The Bear books, including and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, are an excellent example of the type of story that’s perfect for reading to babies before and after birth. The poetic meter and repetitious verse will create the neural pathways in baby’s brain that will lay the foundation for future language learning. Author Bill Martin Jr. and illustrator Eric Carle have collaborated to create many other books with beautiful illustrations that will engage babies and adults alike.
And then there’s the beloved Sandra Boynton, the author and illustrator of many fun and melodic board books, including The Going to Bed Book and Moo Baa La La La. These books, with their lively illustrations and all-around silliness, are bound to become cherished additions to your child’s story repertoire.
With so many wonderful choices, it shouldn’t be hard to find a book that you enjoy reading aloud as much as your baby loves hearing. Keep in mind that these are the stories that your little one will become familiar with and will request again and again once she’s born. Right now, your baby is a captive audience, snuggled up all safe and warm in your “reading womb.” She waits to hear the beautiful sound of your voice and the beloved story, a magical combination that she’ll respond to and that research shows will help her cognitive and language development.
Still can’t decide? Well, it just so happens there’s already a book that’s supported by research and expressly designed for reading to babies in utero and after they’re born. This critically acclaimed book was recently honored with a prestigious gold medal from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and has been inspiring expectant parents all over the globe to begin reading aloud to their babies before birth. Can’t Wait to Show you has become a beloved family favorite, a cherished storytime staple, and a beautiful little book that has sparked an incredible phenomenon of bonding with babies, prenatally and beyond, through language and literacy.
Now, just for our dear readers, we’re offering a holiday special: $3 off the regular price on Amazon! Just enter promo code 6KIVA96K at checkout. And please, whether this copy is for yourself or for a loved one, we’d LOVE you to share your experience with your Belly Book. By email, on Facebook, or with an Amazon review, please give us your before-and-after pictures and stories. Thank you and Happy Holidays!
We are thrilled, honored, touched, and grateful to be awarded the 2014 Moonbeam Awards Gold Medal for Board Books.
We believe this recognition is a wonderful sign: Clearly, awareness is growing about the value of reading to babies in utero. Establishing a practice of family storytime by reading to babies before and after birth is the first step in fostering in our children a lifelong love of reading and learning, as well as family and social bonding. It’s our dream that someday soon this will be a universal practice with lasting benefits for families everywhere.
Thanks also to our dear readers for your support in this exciting journey!
Warmest thanks to Gina of the wonderful blog Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers!
What made Gina such an avid book lover? Her mother read to her in the womb, of course! Read her story and her kind words about our book for reading to babies in the womb, Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be.
New studies continue to emerge that support the idea that a baby in the womb is capable of a lot more than was previously thought. Just last week, researchers at the University of Florida announced their discovery that babies in the last trimester learn and remember nursery rhymes, and that they become especially attentive when the rhymes are read by their mother!
Discoveries like these have made it clear that a baby in the last trimester is an active and responsive member of the household, someone who hears, learns, and remembers what he is exposed to in the womb. Think about what this means! Your baby is already familiar with his sibling’s laugh, the sound of your dog barking, the musical theme of your favorite show, and most importantly, the melody and cadence of your voice.
Previous research in this area strongly suggests that a baby is soothed and calmed by a rhythmic and repetitive story — or song — because the inherent beat closely mimics the rhythm of his mother’s heartbeat and breath. It makes sense, doesn’t it? A baby in the womb is cozy, warm, and comforted by the “ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump” of your heartbeat, and the in-and-out “whoosh” of your breathing. If you read a rhythmic story, he will also be soothed by the rhythm of your voice, which he can hear quite well by the third trimester.
When your baby is born, he’s taken out of this soothing environment, with its predictable, rhythmic sound. But if you hold him close and read a rhythmic poem or story that you read to him regularly during the last trimester, he will immediately be soothed by the familiar “ba-bump” beat.
We created our book, Can’t Wait to Show You, the first in the Belly Books Collection, with all this research in mind. As you read this selection, notice its distinct rhythm and limerick meter:
Hello in there, baby! I’m thinking of you
As you’re curled up inside me so small
Every joy that we share
All my loving and care
And I can’t wait to show you it all!
Of course, the baby in the womb won’t yet be able to understand the words and appreciate the poem’s imagery and emotion — but you will! He will become accustomed to the sounds of the words, and the repeated rhythms will catch and hold his attention in the womb. And because your baby is already in love with your unique voice, he’ll pay extra close attention as you read.
When your baby is born and you read the familiar words, you’ll be amazed to see that he becomes instantly relaxed — a rapt and peaceful audience. You know the feeling: You’ve been searching the radio for a good station. When you catch the beginning of one of your favorite songs you just sit back, listen, and let it take you away.
The benefits of reading rhythmic words to babies in the womb naturally apply to music, too. For a refresher on the benefits of singing lullabies to your expected baby, please see our November 6, 2013, post, Joyful Noise!
The nation’s largest pediatricians’ group, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has publicly urged parents to read aloud to their children daily and to begin as soon as possible. This practice, they say, stimulates early brain development and helps build important language, literacy and social skills. Dr. Pamela High, a renowned pediatrician and spokesperson for the Academy, says:
What we’re addressing is that many parents in the United States don’t seem to have the knowledge that there’s a wonderful opportunity available to them, starting very early, an opportunity for them to begin building their child’s language development and to forge their own relationship with their child through reading to them on a regular basis.
We couldn’t agree more, Dr. High! And we’re grateful for the tireless work you’ve done over many years to spread the word about the importance of sharing language with children right from the very start.
With all the recent research showing that a baby in the last trimester learns language, we are certain that an announcement from the AAP about reading even before birth is not far behind.
“It feels kind of awkward”
You may be an expectant parent who has been hearing about all the incredible benefits of reading to children as soon as possible, and you want to get started, but how? You already take good care of your baby by taking prenatal vitamins, cutting back on caffeine, and getting enough rest, but reading out loud? Now that’s a horse of a different color! We realize that most adults have not read aloud since they were children, if ever, and that beginning this practice can be a little daunting. You might even be thinking to yourself, “What if I do it wrong?”
We at the Reading Womb are here to assure you that there is absolutely no wrong way to read to your baby. Your little one has already fallen deeply in love with you and with your unique voice — months before he is born. Research shows that every time you speak, your baby tunes in and listens closely.
“So what should I read to my baby in the womb?”
To tell the truth, your baby will get all gaga hearing you read the ingredients from the side of a cereal box! But if your aim is to promote literacy and language development, then we can give you the tools to begin. The very first thing that you need to begin your reading routine is . . . a book! Research shows that babies in the womb, as well as newborns, latch onto language that is rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive.
Beloved children’s author and early literacy advocate Mem Fox beautifully explains:
When children are born, they’ve been used to the mother’s heartbeat in the womb. When they’re born, they’re rocked and cradled. There is a rhythm to life itself. There’s rhythm in the nursery rhymes and songs that are sung to children.
So choose a book that has a simple rhythm that’s easy for you to read and will be soothing music to your baby’s ears. In many of the research studies that we’ve reported here, babies in the womb were regularly read nursery rhymes. The short, simple, repetitive lines heard before birth were learned and remembered later by the newborns. As an extra bonus, these babies were soothed and calmed by the familiar language they heard before birth!
Choosing a book with visual appeal to a newborn is also important. Bright and colorful board books will capture a baby’s attention, and the chunky design and easy-to-grasp pages are baby friendly. When he’s still inside the womb, your voice and the fun and lively text will be the main attraction, but once he’s born your baby will have the incredible experience of blending the familiar text with beautiful and supporting illustrations. Voila! You have a tiny pre-reader on your hands!
“What’s the best way to read aloud?”
Jim Trelease, creator of the long bestselling Read Aloud Handbook, writes about all the research showing conclusively that babies in the last trimester do listen to, learn from, and remember language. In Chapter 2 he goes on to encourage expectant parents to form the habit of reading to baby before birth, saying that it will be your baby’s “first class in learning.” The following is an excerpt from his “Do’s and Don’ts for Read Alouds,” with some additional suggestions from us.
Use plenty of expression when reading.
You can use your voice to reflect the meaning of the text. Use a soft voice for gentle characters and moving moments. Use a loud voice to show strong emotion or to emphasize adventure or excitement. Monotone reading will put you and your baby to sleep, so try to keep your voice lively and rich with feeling. Dr. Pam High from the AAP says, “I think [babies] understand the emotion in the words that are being read to them very, very early.”
Adjust your pace to fit the story.
Read slowly to bring attention to beautiful language and imagery. Read more quickly to show movement and action.
Preview the book by reading it to yourself ahead of time.
This way, you’ll be more comfortable when you start to read it aloud. Reading it to yourself a few times will help you plan how the story might sound when it is spoken.
May we also suggest that you choose a book that you enjoy reading as well? If you read a particular book to your baby in utero, we can assure you that that book is going to become your child’s very favorite. Your child is going to say “Please Mommy, just one more time,” or “Read it again, Daddy.” You can look forward to reading this book over and over and over again, so be sure to make it one that you love, too.
Establishing a regular reading routine before birth is one of the very best things you can do for your baby, and as with anything, developing a comfort level with reading aloud takes practice. What better time to practice than when your baby is closer to you than he will ever be again? Ten to 15 minutes a day is all that’s needed to grow a lifelong reader, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us, the benefits are immeasurable.
The research confirms: the best kind of story to read to your baby in utero is . . .
In other words, Rollicking! And Recognizable even from within the muffled environment of the womb.
Now, what more rollicking poetry is there than the limerick form? Something like Edward Lear’s:
But we can do even better than Mr. Lear when it comes to a perfectly rollicking limerick that expresses your joyful anticipation of the birth of your baby! Just for a sample:
A bouncy-seat when you are tiny
But someday you’ll crawl, walk and run
I will cry “Peek-a-boo!”
For a giggle from you
Oh, I can’t wait to show you the fun!
Yes, our very own baby-bump-shaped board book, Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be. And for just this week we’re offering it to you, our dear Reading Womb readers, for a special price.
Go to Amazon and enter the promo code N26VPJ3D to get $1.00 off until May 31, 2014. Enjoy!