It's never too early to read to your baby!

Tag Archives: auditory stimulation

Mom-to-be, you sure have a lot to celebrate in May. First, even if you’re still carrying your little bundle on the inside on Mother’s Day, you know very well that you’re already a mother and deserve to be fussed over and pampered and given breakfast in bed (it could happen!).

Second, you have the good fortune to become a parent during this golden age of early literacy, when an abundance of research findings and expert advice about reading to babies right from birth is being offered by nonprofit groups, libraries, and government agencies. And now, more and more, that includes information about “early-early literacy.” Yes, by reading, talking, and singing to your baby before birth, you’re laying the foundation for future language and literacy skills, cognitive development and, best of all, a sweet, strong mother–child bond.

We rejoiced a few months ago when a New York Times article so prominently pointed out the benefits of reading to babies in the womb. Then we jumped up and down when we learned about all the library story hours being created just for pregnant moms. We just love all this further confirmation that reading to babies before birth is an idea whose time has come. But do you need a little more information, Mom-to-be, to be convinced of the power of reading aloud to a baby you can’t even see yet? We’ve got lots to offer!

Compelling research shows that the mother’s voice plays a crucial role in babies’ growth and development in the womb. Long before you hold your baby in your arms, you begin nurturing him through your unique voice. As you read aloud you’ll find yourself feeling more calm as your heartbeat and breathing slow down, and you’ll immediately pass this relaxation to your baby. You’ll both feel connected, soothed, and peaceful; just like that, you’re already forming a deep bond.

To get yourself up to speed on the whys and wherefores of in utero reading, please check out the studies listed in our sidebar. For starters, here’s a quick summary of the classic research:

  • Babies in utero can recognize, and show a strong preference for, their mother’s voice over the voice of a stranger. See this study.
  • Newborn babies remember and show attentiveness to nursery rhymes that were read to them by their mother during the last trimester of pregnancy. Check it out here.
  • Babies in utero can distinguish between words spoken in their mother’s language and in other languages. Read this article.

These and many more discoveries assure us that a baby in the last trimester is hearing, responding to, and remembering what he’s exposed to from inside the womb. Your baby is already familiar with the melody and cadence of your voice, and this interaction is stimulating the auditory cortex, which plays a large role in developing his brain.

On top of that, research and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that newborn babies are soothed by a rhythmic and repetitive story or song they heard regularly during the last trimester. If your new baby is fussy, you can hold him close and read a poem or story you’ve practiced repeatedly—he’ll immediately be stilled by the familiar sounds. How reassuring would it be to have another way to comfort your newborn at your fingertips?

So start now, while you’re still practicing to be a mother, by reading to your little one even before birth. Soon you’ll see his face light up when he hears you in person! Until then, you can know he’s already listening and responding to the sweet sound of his mother’s voice.

If you’re the loved one of a mom-to-be, there’s still time to get her started with her own copy of Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be. For our Mother’s Day Special, just enter promo code Mom2Bday on Amazon for 20% off through May 31, 2017.

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16638831_sDuring your last trimester, it really does become obvious that your bump is not just a bump, that your little son or daughter is in there, ready to be born and meet you. You have felt him twist and poke you from inside and watched your belly roll and wave. You’ve seen his little nose and toes on the ultrasound — he’s already a perfect little person, cozy in his warm, safe space. Yes, you are a mother, and you have lots to celebrate on this holiday dedicated to you.

You’re so eager to meet this little one who has been close to you for months! What will it be like to hold him and see his face for the very first time? The last months of pregnancy are exciting, and as your belly grows larger, so does your love for your baby, who will be arriving very soon. It’s so hard to wait, isn’t it?

24446382_sBut here’s the incredible news. You may not yet know your baby, but your baby definitely knows you! He knows the rhythms of your body, your waking and sleeping cycles, when and what you eat, when you’re active or still, and most importantly, he knows your voice . . . intimately.

Compelling new research shows that your voice plays as crucial a role in your baby’s growth and development as the healthy foods you’ve been eating all these past months. So although you have to wait a bit to hold your baby in your arms, you can begin nurturing him immediately, through the magical power of your unique voice.

Special Mother’s Day Gift! You or your expectant loved one can try reading in utero with our beautiful board book created specially for the purpose. Click here  and enter promo code W49ZZ9DQ  to get Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be for $3 off until May 31, 2015.

Researchers at Harvard University Medical School recently reported their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finding that an expectant mother’s voice plays a vital role in the development of the language centers in a baby’s brain. According to the study, a mother’s voice provides “the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.”

Preg ReadNot only does talking to your bump help you to bond with your little one, but it actually helps his brain to grow!

If you’ve been following the Reading Womb blog, then you’re familiar with all the previous studies that show the importance of a mother’s voice on the developing child in utero. Here’s a quick summary of a few of them:

  • Babies in utero can recognize, and show a strong preference for, their mother’s voice over the voice of a stranger. See this study.
  • Newborn babies remember and show attentiveness to nursery rhymes that were read to them by their mother during the last trimester of pregnancy. Check it out here.
  • Babies in utero can distinguish between words spoken in their mother’s language and in other languages. Read this article.

990240_sThese and many related discoveries assure us that a baby in the last trimester is hearing, responding to, and remembering what he’s exposed to from inside the womb. Your baby is already familiar with the melody and cadence of your voice, and this interaction is stimulating the auditory cortex, which plays a large role in developing his brain.

But wait — there’s more! Research and lots of anecdotal evidence — including from our readers — strongly suggest that newborn babies are soothed and calmed by a rhythmic and repetitive story (or song) they heard regularly during the last trimester.

When your baby is born he leaves the soothing environment of the womb, with its predictable, rhythmic sounds. But if you hold him close and read a poem or story you’ve practiced with repeatedly, he will immediately be stilled by the familiar beat and by the beauty of your unique voice, the voice he has known and loved for months. Wouldn’t it give you a little extra confidence to have one more way of comforting your new baby?

25961883_sSo celebrate Mother’s Day by talking, singing, and reading to your baby even before birth. Soon enough, you will see your little one’s face light up when he hears you in person! Until then, you can know that he already knows and responds to the sweet sound of his Mummy’s voice.

As an added bonus, you can be sure that by talking to your baby now, you are laying the foundation for future language and literacy skills, cognitive development and, best of all, a sweet, strong mother-and-child bond.


LitWorldLogo

Not only is March National Reading Month, but March 2nd is Read Across America Day, and March 4th is World Read Aloud Day! If you are an expectant parent feeling intrigued by the idea of reading to your baby in the womb, we say: Give it a try on Wednesday, March 4! If you carry on through the rest of the month, we think you’ll be hooked. And this is one of the best things you can do for your baby, right up there with prenatal nutrition and healthcare.

World Read Aloud Day, celebrated annually on the first Wednesday in March, was initiated by LitWorld, an international literacy advocacy organization. According to LitWorld, this day “motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another.” We heartily approve of LitWorld’s mission (the emphasis is ours):

LitWorld photo of WRAD 2014

LitWorld photo of WRAD 2014

We cultivate a love of reading and writing because having the chance to experience that love is how literacy grows best and strongest. Literacy for LitWorld is not just about learning the alphabet or phonemic practice; it is also about cultivating creative expression, about the power of the read-aloud to immerse children in the power of language, and about putting young people’s stories out into the world, dignifying their experience and giving them a voice in the world.

Yes! And that powerful read-aloud time with your child can begin even before birth. In the last three months of pregnancy, when the baby’s brain and auditory system are already developed enough for him to hear and recognize sounds, you can start practicing this important reading routine and enjoying the feeling of sharing the love of language with your child. The benefits of in utero reading to babies’ cognitive development and language skills have been well documented over the last several years (just check out the Research section in the sidebar).

So we’re really excited to tell you about the latest contribution to this body of work, just reported on February 24. This study, led by the Harvard Medical School, showed that a baby’s brain development is e24441283_snhanced by hearing its mother’s voice and heartbeat before full gestation. “We theorize,” say the researchers, “that exposure to maternal sounds may provide newborns with the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.” We’re right there with you!

All the benefits of reading aloud to children that LitWorld so passionately advocates, combined with the wealth of scientific support for reading to babies in the womb, make it abundantly clear that It’s Never Too Early to Read to Your Baby!

12070233_sStart this joyful and valuable storytime routine right now, during National Reading Month! Book lovers everywhere are commemorating this special month with activities to spread the love of reading, and the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America on March 2 with fun events in schools, libraries, and community centers around the U.S.

Do you need some tips to get started? Please see this post for a fuller exploration of Jim Trelease’s read-aloud insights, but here are a few for now:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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Happy Reading! 


Mother and NewbornA very important quality that separates mammals from other creatures is our strong desire to protect and care for our young. Unlike a turtle, who lays her eggs in the sand, leaving the tiny baby turtles to return to the sea and fend for themselves alone, we mammals form a bond with our young — even before they are born — that continues for our whole lives.

A fascinating discovery was made recently about the special bond that mother dolphins create with their babies while they’re still in the womb. The aquarium staff at Six Flags Discovery Park in California started noticing that Bella, a pregnant bottlenose dolphin, was already sending out her “baby whistle” as she swam alone in the tank. It seemed Bella was talking to herself . . . or was she?

Bella and Baby

Once the baby dolphin was born, Bella continued her baby whistle, and the little one responded right away by coming to her side. It became clear that the prebirth baby whistle was Bella’s way of teaching her baby to recognize her voice so that she could call to it immediately, protecting the vulnerable baby right from the moment of its birth. Dolphins understand something innately that many of us in our culture are just coming around to: A baby in the womb in the last trimester can hear what’s going on in the world outside, and the opportunities for bonding before birth are countless. Pretty exciting, isn’t it?

Bella’s story illustrates how very natural it is to connect with our expected little one, and what better way to do that than by beginning a reading routine that, like Bella’s baby whistle, will be recognized and responded to by your baby at birth? You can actually begin a bedtime-story ritual during your last trimester that will condition your newborn to quiet down, settle in, and get sleepy. A simple, beautiful, rhyming and rhythmic story, read in your familiar voice, is just what is needed to regulate your baby’s alpha waves, slow his breathing and pulse, and get him primed for tuck-in time.

PregReadBegin this special bedtime routine now, while your baby is still curled up inside you, and you’ll reap the benefits when he is born. Research shows that having a regular bedtime helps babies to become conditioned to fall asleep each night, so set a regular time to slow your day down and read to your expected little one. Get cozy, relaxed, and comfortable and your baby will, too. Read in your regular voice (your baby has the best seat in the house) and know that you are establishing a beautiful and natural routine that will enrich, nurture, and support your child’s well-being in so many ways.

If you’re considering using an e-book for bedtime reading with a child, well, research says that it just won’t do. According to a recent National Literacy Trust study, children who engage with e-books have less engagement with a story and are less likely to grow up to be readers. Turns out that a story on a tablet is perceived by children, especially young ones, as more of a gaming than a reading experience. Additional research says that the screen time before bed interacts negatively with brain waves, getting them wound up instead of quieted down to alpha. Not exactly an effective way to get your child settled down to sleep.

Read BabyOf course, those who love reading know there’s nothing like a real, holdable paper book. When you read a real book with your newborn, turning the pages and looking at the bright illustrations, you will get his visual as well as his auditory attention. You’ll also be setting him up with those prereading skills we’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, such as holding a book right-side-up and reading from left to right.

If you want the very best reading experience, and the most natural one for your baby before and after birth, there’s no substitute for the real thing. By establishing a quiet bedtime routine now, centered around your loving voice and a beautiful storybook, you will be delighted to find that you have a child who looks forward to winding down at bedtime, and whose biorhythms will be accustomed to settling down as he snuggles in at the same time each night.

Bella and Baby 2So let’s get back to Bella, our dolphin. She knows how natural it is to talk to her baby in the womb—nothing fancy required, just her voice and her desire to connect with her little one. Your own perfectly natural instinct to communicate and bond with your baby can be reinforced by establishing a routine centered around literacy and language, right from the beginning. Research says that both babies in the womb and newborns respond to and learn best from text that is rhyming and rhythmic, and also that the baby knows your voice best. So your voice, plus a beautiful book, is the recipe for a natural language bond. We have just the thing . . .


Reading MumDear readers, we can’t help noticing the search terms that bring so many of you to The Reading Womb. The question most asked by far is some variation of, “What should I read to my baby in the womb?” We’re thrilled to see that reading to babies prenatally has become a mainstream practice among expectant parents! And clearly, families are thirsting for more information.

So in response to your requests, here’s another roundup of  books and authors perfectly suited to reading to your baby before birth.

If you’ve been following our blog and podcast, 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. We know that preborn babies 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 you and your baby will enjoy before and after she’s born.

Martin-CarleAuthor Bill Martin, Jr. and iconic illustrator Eric Carle have collaborated to create a much-loved collection of rhyming books whose simple text and engaging illustrations will capture the attention of babies and adults alike. There are three titles with a similar catchy chorus repeated throughout each book, just perfect for in utero reading: Polar Bear Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, what do you hear?

I hear a lion roaring in my ear!

Lion, Lion what do you hear?

I hear a hippopotamus snorting in my ear!

ChickaAnother favorite, also written by Bill Martin, Jr., is a rollicking and playful interpretation of the childhood chant, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

A told B and B told C,

“I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree!” . . .

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!

Will there be enough room?

Prolific author and illustrator Sandra Boynton has created many enjoyable rhyming books for young children. Her whimsical text and lovable characters create a fun reading experience for baby and grownups alike. From the popular Moo, Baa, La La La: “A cow says Moo. A sheep says Baa. Three singing pigs say La La La!”

BoyntonBoynton’s Tickle Time is bound to become a family favorite. Listen: “If you’re feeling blue and you don’t know what to do, there’s nothing like a tickle time to make you feel like new.”

Mem Fox has a way with words, and she’s created many books that should be at the center of your in utero reading experience. Her Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, The Magic Hat, and A Giraffe in the Bath are favorites that all have the rhyme, rhythm, and repetition that your baby will remember and grow to love.

A giraffe in the bath—does that make you laugh? Or a frog in the flour? Or a sheep in the shower? An owl with the flu? Or a roo on the loo? A crocodile with style—does that make you smile?

Of course, anything by Dr. Seuss will do the trick. You may have read these favorites as a child: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham . . . and the list goes on.

KublerAnnie Kubler specializes in bringing popular rhymes to life with her charming and colorful illustrations. Everyone knows the words to If You’re Happy and You Know It, I’m a Little Teapot and Pat-a-Cake, but with her sweet babies and bright palette  Ms. Kubler has given the traditional children’s rhymes new life.

Family BumpSo, you’ve got some books and now you’re ready to get started! Watch for our next post, which will be full of practical tips about how to make your prenatal reading experience effective and powerful.

And if you are a parent who has benefited from the beautiful and bonding experience of reading to your baby before birth, we’d love to hear your story!  Please send your stories, photos or videos and we’ll include them on on our blog to inspire other expectant parents to read to their child in the womb! From everything we’ve heard, these little ones turn out to be pretty special—early talkers who want to read everything they can get their hands on. But we’re not surprised. We at the Reading Womb have long known that it’s never too early to read to your baby!


“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!


’Tis the season for giving, and what better gift is there for expectant families than a book that’s perfect for reading to a baby in the womb? We’ve received requests for suggestions of titles from our followers, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to share some of the best books for reading to babies in utero.

If you’ve been following our blog and podcast, 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. Preborn babies 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 you and your baby will enjoy before and after she’s born.

Ashley, an expectant mother from California, shared with us that she is reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle to her little “bundle of joy.” Ashley has chosen an excellent example of the type of story that is perfect for reading to your baby before and after birth. The poetic meter and repetitious verse will create those neural pathways in your 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 appropriate titles, including Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? These books all have colorful illustrations that will engage babies and adults alike.

Another favorite Bill Martin Jr. title is a whimsical rhyming alphabet book called Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. In a catchy beat it describes the antics of the personified letters of the alphabet—great fun to read aloud.

Mem Fox is a prolific writer of children’s books, and many of them are perfect for reading to your expected child. The adorable illustrations and simple verse in her Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is just perfect for introducing your child to the joys of reading. Other appropriate titles by Mem Fox include The Magic Hat and Time for Bed.

A traditional favorite is the series of books written by Ludwig Bemelmans about Madeline, the little French girl. These stories told in simple verse may be a nostalgic trip down memory lane for the adult reader.

Dr. Seuss has dozens of rhyming books, and some of our favorites are One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Horton Hears a Who, and Green Eggs and Ham.

Sandra Boynton is the author and illustrator of many fun and melodic board books, including Barnyard Dance and Pajama Time. These books, with their lively illustrations and all-around silliness, are bound to become cherished additions to your child’s story repertoire.

You’ve already heard us gush about the wonderful poems of Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Everything On It) and Jack Prelutsky (Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face, A Pizza the Size of the Sun, and Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young), but there are many other wonderful options when it comes to prenatal reading:

Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka

Sheep in a Jeep and Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw

Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies

Remember that it’s important that you enjoy reading the books as much as your baby enjoys hearing them. Keep in mind that these are the stories that your baby 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.

And one day soon, when your child is all cozied up in your lap, sharing this sacred and special reading time, she will say those words that will be music to your ears, “Can you read that again, Mommy?” or “Just one more time, Daddy!” Now, what could be better than that?



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