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Reading ABCs

We all know that reading to our babies is one of the best things we can do for their growing brain. But the technique we use is just as important as the activity itself. Plowing through page after page  -- without, well, stopping to smell the roses  -- won't cut it. "Interacting with your child while you are reading is crucial," says Miriam Bar-on, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Public Education. "If you don't engage her in the book, reading becomes almost the same as plopping her in front of the TV." That said, here's a quick course on proper reading etiquette:

[STYLE {0 TO 6 MONTHS} {SECTION}]

Really, start this early. It will help instill a positive association with books  -- and it's a great way to bond. Emphasize the sounds of the words, stressing vowels and consonants slowly. Your child can't understand the story, so feel free to improvise!

Make faces. Baby will be able to see you better than the pictures. Making lots of faces will help her learn different expressions.

[STYLE {7 TO 12 MONTHS} {SECTION}]

Encourage exploration. Baby can pay attention longer and see more clearly. Let her reach for the book and touch the pictures, which will help improve her motor skills.

Spend time on each page. Remember to make face-to-face contact and lots of comments while Baby is looking at the pictures. Point out all the parts of the illustration. Spending 15 minutes on two or three pages is just as beneficial as finishing the whole book.

Follow Baby's cues. Try to establish a routine, but when the squirming starts, move on. There's no need to force it.

[STYLE {13 TO 18 MONTHS} {SECTION}]

Hand over the controls. Encourage Baby to choose her own books, and to turn the pages herself.

Ask questions. Language development is shifting into high gear, so help your little bookworm identify objects in the pictures while you say the word simultaneously.

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