Teaching babies to love reading from the womb to adulthood

Reading is said to be a learned skill which sets one up for success in later life. Reading, telling stories, talking and singing to babies and young children promote the use of their imagination, develops their brains, helps with emotional and language development. Reading to babies also helps with the identification of sounds, speech skills, teaching of language, words and the development of early literacy skills. 

It has been revealed that pre-literacy skills are formed in-utero when unborn babies are read and spoken to. This is due to the emotional and language awareness created by the baby listening to the mother’s voice as she reads. According to a study conducted at the University of Oregon, babies recognized some words which were played to them in-utero after their birth. The strongest responses were demonstrated by the babies whose mothers frequently played the recordings to them. This suggests that learning of languages and by extension a love for reading begins right from the womb even before birth. So, expectant mothers can attempt to inculcate a love for reading in their children by reading aloud a few minutes a day right from conception. 

Benefits of Prenatal Reading

  1. Develops of literacy and language skills

Prenatal reading offers innumerable benefits to unborn babies. According to Fadiyla Dopwell, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician; among the benefits are development of word recognition and development of critical thinking. This is largely due to the fact that constant reading builds up their vocabulary and increases the number of words they process in-utero. Language milestones are determined by the number of words babies show understanding of at different ages. Hence reading to your unborn baby gives him or her an advantage over other babies who were not read to in-utero. 

  1. Promotes bonding between the baby and family members

Reading to babies creates a strong emotional bond between them and those reading to them. It also helps in cognitive development which enables them to easily and more quickly recognize the voices of family members once they are born. The constant exposure to the voices of their family members when they are reading aloud help them develop trust and fortify the connection between them. According to the American Psychological Association in this study, the levels of anxiety and stress of parents and children even in the toddler years were greatly determined by the patterns of bonding established in-utero. 

  1. Controls the heart rate of the baby and aids in relaxation

Pregnancy comes with a lot of stress not only to the mother but also the baby. The baby is sometimes overwhelmed by various emotions. The soothing voice of a reader can help calm down the anxious baby, enable the foetus to relax and control his or her heart rate. 

  1. Improves concentration and develops memory

The key to memorization is repetition.  Constant repetition of words when reading reinforces the baby’s memory and concentration which will be beneficial to the child as he or she grows.

  1. Conveys feelings of safety and security

The bond between the mother and baby are formed and solidified on a daily basis as the pregnancy progresses. As the mother reads to the baby, she feels love and a closer connection to her baby which releases endorphins, also known as the ‘feel good hormones’.  The baby absorbs and mimics those hormones. This gives the baby feelings of safety, love, well-being and security; which goes a long way towards creating a confident and self-assured adult. 

At what stage during pregnancy should babies be read to?

By the third trimester an unborn baby’s ears are fully developed and can clearly hear sounds emanating from outside the womb, although ten decibels lower than us. The unborn baby uses sound as the principal source of information and connection to the outside world from the 25th week onwards. Not only do babies learn language or speech patterns from prenatal reading, they can also recognize words they first heard in the womb right after birth. Thus, reading to the baby in-utero encourages brain activity and develops the baby’s literacy skills. 

Rubbing your bump as you read also calms the baby and further strengthens the bond between you and your baby. This can be attributed to the soothing effect of the cadence and tone of your voice as you read to the baby. 

Are there specific or particular books to read to the unborn baby?

You may be wondering whether only specific baby-centred books should be read or whether all genres and kinds of books are suitable for reading to the baby. The good news is that at this stage, the choice of books to read to the baby is solely up to you

Experts recommend reading whichever books you feel comfortable reading aloud; it is the process of prenatal reading which matters most in inculcating a love of reading in the baby. 

If you particularly enjoy mystery books, love stories, classics, poetry or science fiction; go right ahead and read them to your baby. However, if you prefer to read baby or children’s books, choose books with clear patterns of rhyme and rhythm for a melodic and soothing listening experience. Reading to your baby should not have to feel like a chore after all 🙂  

Also, if you have other children you can encourage bonding between your unborn baby and his/her siblings by letting them read aloud or even just tell their favourite stories. 

In his bookMagical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth; Deepak Chopra states “If we aim to create a nonviolent world, we must begin with love and nourishment in the womb.” 

Simply put, a lot of the violence and hatred in the world can be averted if we make the effort to communicate peace and calmness in the environment of babies even before they are born. The effects of the entrenched feeling of well-being and love can permeate the very essence of the baby to the extent that they radiate love wherever they go as adults.

So if you are pregnant, you now know more on what to do to reduce violence in the world and create a more peaceful society. Start loving your baby in your womb by reading to him/her as often as possible. It’s an unforgettable experience and a unique moment between you and your unborn baby. 

If you would like to know some titles of books you can start with, kindly comment or send us an email at content@munakalati.org 

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