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Raising a Bookworm

Surprise: Babies and books are a great mix. Sure, your child may not be able to leaf through Goodnight Moon on her own yet -- or even pat the bunny without drooling on him a little -- but an infant gets a lot out of storytime, says Kathleen Martin, Ph.D., associate professor of education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Just by holding up a simple picture book for her to see as she sits on your lap, you show what books are for and how you use them -- that you read from left to right and top to bottom, and turn the pages," she says.

And listening to you helps your baby become familiar with the flow and basic rules of language. In fact, experts say that kids who are read to regularly have an easier time learning to read later on.

Try to read together for a few minutes every day so your baby comes to expect and look forward to storytime as she grows. Books with big illustrations are easy on little eyes, and touch-and-feel ones are fun, too: Just run her hands over the textures if she can't do it by herself. (Don't be discouraged if she's more interested in chewing on the pages than touching them, though: Part of the way babies learn about objects is by putting them in their mouths.)

"The most important thing is to communicate that reading is a satisfying and rewarding experience," says Martin. "Learning to read won't be easy, but you can start teaching your baby that it's worth it."