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We have created a bad habit of our baby watching TV at a very young age. He is now turning 1 this month and he starts to babble on some words. I am a first time mother and I have been anxious about his development. Anyway, I would like to create a habit of reading out for the baby. I have read that I should be reading to my baby ever since I was pregnant, but I haven't have the chance to do it since I am working.

My question is, is it too late for me to read for my baby considering he is now turning 1?

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    It's never too late to start a good habit! – Eric Renouf Mar 3 '17 at 16:55
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    First, do your best to relax about this. Your baby will do just fine. Second - no, it's not too late. Any time you spend with your youngster will be good for both of you. Third - seriously, do your best to relax - if you're stressed your youngster will pick up on that. Fourth - it's going to be OK. Let's give you a story. Our eldest daughter had high bilirubin at 3 days old. Off we went to the hospital, she was admitted to intensive care, etc. Doctors going on about possible brain damage, etc. That daughter is now a sophomore at Harvard. Take a deep breath. In-out, in-out. It's gonna be OK... – Bob Jarvis Mar 3 '17 at 20:43
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    Consider most kid's books, especially appropriate for 1 year old, can be rad in under 5 minutes, even if you read slowly. Carving out that 5 minutes might seem hard until you get down and do it. I read 2 books to our girls every night, but they're usually Barenstain Bears or equal sorts. Takes about 10 minutes and we talk about them too. Once you build the habit you'll find it's one of your favorite times of the day, or at least it is for me. Not too late. If anything, maybe more so appropriate now that he's probably old enough to understand some of it. – Kai Qing Mar 3 '17 at 23:23
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    Instilling a sense of value in reading books is key here, I think. I was raised in a large family with many, many books (but no TV). My father used to read novels out loud to us (think Roald Dahl, Where the Red Fern Grows, Jim Kjelgaard, those sorts of books), and I have many memories of reading with my mom, and also of taking out 30 books at a time from the library when I was 8 or 9 (Hardy Boys and the like, and yes, I read them all). My point is, I agree with @Kai: I think now is an ideal time to start reading to your child, but don't stop. Give him books, go to the library, and limit TV. – user19033 Mar 4 '17 at 4:11
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    It's not too late for me to read to my 55 year old wife, so why would it be too late for you to read to your child? – barbecue Mar 6 '17 at 0:20

14 Answers 14

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It is not too late at all. Please do try to limit TV, and of course you are tired after working all day. However, this is also your job. Reading, playing, walking to the park -- all of these things are important. Talking about what you are doing -- "I am making dinner. This is a carrot. I am using the sharp knife to cut it."

There are many books in your library. Going to the library is pure magic for kids. Often libraries have children's areas and reading and playgroups.

Where is your child during the day? I hope that the caregiver(s) read to him as well.

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    I just want to add that if your son hasn't been exposed to books much yet, he probably won't immediately understand/like reading --- it's a new activity, and he won't know how to do it or how to enjoy it without a bit of practice. So give yourselves lots of time to work out a routine. – Rose Hartman Mar 3 '17 at 22:08
  • My child is with my husband during the day/goes to a daycare. The daycare just lets him play around. I don't think they ever tried reading to him. My husband is also busy on his business so the TV is on many times. – Marj Mar 3 '17 at 22:26
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    Just my opinion, but I would start reading more and not watching TV, but easy for me to say, harder for you to do. – WRX Mar 3 '17 at 23:36
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    "Going to the library is pure magic for kids". I'd like to second this. I took my 4 year old to the library for the first time a month ago. I went in assuming we'd get one book and come out. In the end we came out with 6, it could quite easily have been 20. – icc97 Mar 4 '17 at 14:21
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    @Marj I wonder if your husband could find 10 minutes here or there to read or play? I understand that it is not a perfect world, but even a small change can make a huge difference. – WRX Mar 4 '17 at 17:30
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I enjoy reading to my children each night just before bed. It gives them something to look forward to, especially if the book is very interesting to them, and is a soothing way to end the day. It also exposes them to ideas that they might not encounter by choice (I have been going through a lot of the award winning books, such as Newbery and Caldecott, especially those about children of other cultures and eras)

An infant isn't old enough to get much out of the story, but children love routine. When she was very young, my daughter had several favorite stories and she never tired of hearing them over and over. She also loved being able to count on having five minutes of my undivided attention every night. Her "mommy lap book time" was very important to her.

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    I still love Goodnight Moon, though I've read it hundreds of times! – WRX Mar 3 '17 at 18:27
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    Letting your child pick the book they want you to read is excellent too (though possibly not applicable for a one-year-old) :) – Doktor J Mar 3 '17 at 20:48
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First, I would like to say what a wonderful mother you are! You already have what it takes to be a wonderful mother! I am a mother of 4; all of my children are adults now. I remember worrying about how much is too much of this or that, lol. I miss it. Bless your heart.

In my opinion, it is never, ever to late to start reading! It is always better late then never. Developmentally, according to studies and science, 5 yrs old is when the internal "processors" change and are not as fast as the 1st 4 years. Things sort of "switch gears".

So, there you have the opinion of an experienced mom. You have some facts you can check up on scientifically speaking. But, we did not give the best source of information a voice or a chance at all. Who or what is this source you may ask? She is an expert. Want to see her? She is in your mirrors.

This is a very special time, I hope you cherish it. It goes so very fast. In this time, you are not only the teacher; you are also the student. Life has this awesome synergy, a way of showing you something. You have an incredible gift, it is called "Mothers Intuition"; each mom has it. Some just don't know or understand how or if they should listen to it. Only life and time can show it to you. You do have it though! Trust your gut.

It is okay to make mistakes. It is how we all learn as you will see in your baby. You are already off to an incredible start though! I know because you care enough to ask. If you try something, and it feels wrong, modify it. If you like the way something is done, and you get 150 different people saying "no do it this way, or that way" research it. If you find no harm and you like the way you do it.. stand your ground!

No one knows what is best for your baby better than you. Opinions come a dime a dozen. Yours ultimately is the best for your baby, and for you!

I'm here for encouragement if you need more.. You got this!

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    What a lovely answer. I really like your positivity. So many new parents are worried about every little thing. I certainly forget to remind them that they have good instincts. – WRX Mar 4 '17 at 16:40
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    Despite the wall of text and the all caps, this is my favorite answer here. As a parent there are way too many people telling you what you should be doing, and way too few deferring to your extensive expertise on your own child. – T.E.D. Mar 4 '17 at 19:33
  • T.E.D. my apologies if the way I express my thoughts offended you. I normally do not even like to comment in public places, for this precise reason. I am not a millennial kid. I am an older woman. So I type from my heart.. Hoping to impact my reader in a certain way, mostly because this way of communication is difficult for me. I am a person to person teacher. I need to see eyes, facial expressions to know if the person understands or not. Typing is so impersonal, that letters in all small caps start to blend into a grey blur of nonsense sometimes. I just really wanted to help her. :\ – Madder Hatter Mar 6 '17 at 20:47
  • Wow! Thank you so much for this comment and encouragement @MadderHatter. I appreciate it a lot. I guess it is normal for all first time moms like me to have anxieties like these – Marj Mar 7 '17 at 14:35
  • @MadderHatter - Unnecessary. My philosophy is not to get upset about things I'm quite capable of fixing myself with a small effort. I hope you consider the changes an improvement. If not, feel free to click on the "edited" link at the bottom of the answer and roll back the changes. I know my first instinct when I find a post of mine edited is to feel a bit insulted, but it is really a complement. It means someone felt your post was worth the effort of polishing. – T.E.D. Mar 8 '17 at 16:36
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my parents read to me for quite awhile. I remember as a very young child my father reading Charlett's Web to us, back when I was to young to fully follow it, and later my mother reading a series of books that were simplified versions of classics like Treasure Island. Important point here is that these are longer books.

Even when I could read in kindergarten my parents read to me, because I wasn't up to the reading level of these more advanced books. The only stopped reading to me when I could read chapter books on my own. I'm sure that inspired my love of reading.

The point being that 1 year is still very young. There is plenty of time to keep reading to her, you can keep upping the complexity of your books as well for as long as their let you read to them. There is still plenty of good that learning to enjoy a good book can offer.

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In my opinion the value of reading has two main parts; forming a habit of valuing books, and much more importantly setting aside time to get close and use words. For the later it doesn't have to be reading. Chat with him, gossip about your work, the news, the neighbors, anything at all. And for the former People is about as good as anything at one year old.

The habit of books is hoped to last a lifetime, so a few months off the front isn't that big a deal. The trick to forming any habit isn't starting early it's being consistent and making it enjoyable.

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Books suitable for a 1-year-old can be incredibly quick to read and very easy to slot into your child's bedtime routine even if they have a limited attention span.

If you look at board books aimed at babies/young toddlers, often they are only 12 pages long, and these tend to be double page spreads, so really there are only 6 pages with a simple sentence on each page!

How long does it take you to read the following text (based on a typical board book length)?

Page 1-2 "It's time for teddy to wake up."

Page 3-4 "Teddy is putting on his coat and hat."

Page 5-6 "Teddy has a picnic at the park."

Page 7-8 "Teddy rides his scooter home."

Page 9-10 "Time for dinner - yum yum!"

Page 7-8 "Teddy brushes his teeth - scrub scrub."

Page 11-12 "Time for bed - goodnight teddy!"

Reading at a steady pace it takes around 60 seconds to read this sort of text with pauses between. It only takes longer if your child is interested in pausing to look at pictures, lift flaps or feel 'touchy feely' textures.

So as you can see, there are no real barriers to introducing this activity to your toddler's bedtime routine. I think you will find they enjoy it, and before you know it, one book will no longer be enough and your toddler will be asking for more stories at bedtime.

I also recommend having a big basket of books on the floor in your living area for your toddler to help themselves to. They will either bring the books to you to read as a nice social activity, or they will sit and flick through the books themselves.

It's never too late, and a 1 year old is still a baby really - start now and don't look back!

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Several good answers already, so I will just contribute an anecdote.

When my now-16-years-old daughter was around 6-7 years old, I was similarly worried as you are (and we are talking 7 years old, not 1!).

By the time she was 12, she would basically spend her whole free time lying in the couch, reading, interrupted only by walks to the library to get more books. I even once found myself asking her to stop reading and to come watch tv with the family...

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My parents and grand-parents read to me for years: I don't remember anything from when I was one years old related to them reading to me, but I do remember being read-to until I was at least seven years old (by then I had already known how to read on my own for several years). This had several substantial benefits to my life, and probably to my parents' lives:

First, I have no doubt that my very keen sense of empathy and desire to know and understand the world and people (both collectively and individually) was in large part born out of these experiences.

Second, because I liked the stories, my parents had leverage to motivate me to learn to read VERY young. By the time I entered school, and maybe even before I entered pre-school (too few detailed memories with age-establishing-context left to be sure), I knew how to read. I did resist it at first - after all, they read to me: but then my parents started saying "this book is simple enough that we can read it [together / taking-turns]" and putting their foot down on it. But if I remember it right, pretty quickly, I started just reading more than I had to for my turn anyway, because it was faster (and I was interested enough in the story) for me to just keep reading. So pick a ratio of your kid reading vs. you reading that gets your kid to actually read, then bring it up (with some but not-too-much flexibility for when they're sick/tired/etc) as they get better. They kept reading to me for several more years, either harder/longer books than I could handle myself at the time, because it helped put me to bed, and because it was a positive experience that I (and I know they) enjoyed.

I started writing about a huge number of other benefits that careful introspection suggests were in part caused by my parents reading to me. But most of them are just the same benefits you already know: the benefits of getting better at reading and the benefits of general better mental development that more reading empowers.

The core point here is this: When I was six or seven years old, I was still gladly soaking up my parents' willingness to read stories to me, and definitely benefiting from it. Don't stop considering reading to your kid until they make it clear they don't want it, and if you balance that right with giving them incentives to read for themselves, chances are they'll only stop wanting you to read to them once they're such good readers that they actually prefer reading to themselves.

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    My husband and I read aloud to each other everyday. I still read to my 16 y/old daughter. We love it. – WRX Mar 5 '17 at 19:23
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The best time to start a good habit is 'as early as possible'.

The second-best time is today.

Start reading to your baby now - a love of books is a lifelong gift and will enable your child to learn for themselves, even whilst doing something enjoyable.

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From what I can recall, my parents didn’t read to me at that age. But slightly older, when I was talking and able to understand what was happening, they got a subscription to an Early Start book club thing and got Dr.Suess, Berenstain, Scarey, etc. all in high quality hard cover editions. Dad would teach me to read them, and I was reading before starting formal Kindergarten.

I became a voracious reader.

So I think at age 1 and earlier, it’s not about reading at all, but simply one-on-one time where she hears her mother talking.

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It's never too late to start reading aloud to your children, although many parents stop this tradition too early.

I'd echo the encouraging advice you've been given in other answers: take the plunge and start the tradition of reading aloud regularly. Visit libraries often and take home several books. (I also recommend having a place in your home called the "library table" where these books are kept – that makes it easier to keep track of them when it's time to take them back!) Then, most importantly of all, plan to continue this tradition all the way into and through the teenage years.

In his excellent book on this subject, The New Read-Aloud Handbook, author Jim Trelease explains that most children have a listening comprehension level a few grades ahead of their reading comprehension level. This means they can understand books that they aren't quite ready to read yet. Take advantage of this! Even after your child begins reading on his own, keep the imagination growing and the bonding times alive by keeping up the habit.

I read to all four of my children regularly until they left home, starting with picture books as toddlers, moving to chapter books for children in elementary school, and evolving into full-length novels by the time they were in high school. It fostered a love for reading in them as well.

We read a lot of very good books together. It was never really a chore; if I didn't like the book we had chosen, I'd simply tell them we were done with that one, and we'd start something new. Most of the time, I was looking forward to reading more of the book as much as they were.

By the time my youngest was in college and her three siblings had moved away, she was often coming home too late to read nightly. Yet the two of us still regularly read together two or three nights a week, as we could work it in. Good times. We are both still wistful that we never finished Mary Poppins before she moved out – that book was actually quite entertaining.

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Us humans are made of stories. The first and most glorious thing about reading to your child is that you can decide, between you, what stories they will be made of. This has to be better than letting some marketing executive determine what stories they are fed, in TV etc.. The second thing is that reading aloud, doing the voices, expressing all the sadness and joy, is the best fun ever. Go for it, at any age, and don't stop just because they get to 10 or 15 or 50. Never think that something is beyond your child - what we understand is always a year or two ahead of what we can say - just read what seems interesting. And then go further - we are all storytellers, too, so spin your own yarns out of the magic stuff of your own experience. I have been telling my daugher a rambling epic about a girl and a dog and a couple of time-travelling dragons, in daily instalments, since before she could talk. Characters come and go, and the mood can be anything from comic to tragic, and OK my plotting and characterisation leave a lot to be desired, but I get to explain, indirectly, the truths of human relationships and what is important in life. And she listens. It is a wonder and a privelege.

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At that age, the important thing isn't particularly reading to them, it's talking to them. Children can learn sounds from the TV, but they can best learn how to make those sounds by looking at your mouth.

My son never really took to those fabric books for babies, or most of those board books. Personally I think he simply didn't see anything interesting in them, and I don't really blame him. :) The ones that worked were the ones with pull-tabs, where a fish pops up or a windmill goes round or whatever. Those gave him something to do, and me something to read which he could connect with what he was doing. They also helped his hand-eye coordination and grip. And then, as we went on, he got that what I was reading was always the same, and it was connected to the words on the page.

One in particular was a real winner. It had pop-up things, and it included counting as well, so "one whale, two polar bear cubs" and so on. He was still getting that out when he was 5.

Conversely, I got a lot of children's bed-time story books which haven't seen any real use at all. I tried, but he never got into me reading them to him, because he couldn't connect to them. I think a good rule of thumb would be one sentence per picture per year old - more than that, and they can't keep concentration.

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Based on the programs he watches on the TV, analyze what he's interested in. Once you know that, give him the books he would like to read. Slowly take him away from the TV. Start teaching him something that's beyond the limits of a 1 year old so when he grows up, you won't have a problem. He'll turn out to be very innovative. When he turns 14, make sure he reads the biography of Steve Jobs.

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