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What Your Baby Gets Out Of Books

Instead of reading books, my then 6-month-old devoured them (literally). I laughed at plenty of irritating jokes ("He's consuming literature!" "He's developing a taste for a good story!"), but deep down, I was a bit worried. Why wouldn't my son sit in my lap and gaze at the pictures?

The truth is that different babies decipher visual material differently, and have varying capacities to sit still and concentrate. Here are some ways to make storytime more productive:

Get interactive. Having a flap to turn, a button to push, or a texture to feel gets babies more engaged. You can also sing the words to a book; if you're reading about ants, use your fingers to "crawl" up his arm.

Don't force it. When your baby wants to move on to the next page, don't make him wait until you're done reading. Just point out familiar items on each page. ("There's a cat. She's black, like our cat.") Reading at this age is mostly about pointing and naming, not plot.

Let him chew. Babies use their mouths to explore the world around them, but don't think that the texture and taste of a book is all that your baby gets out of "reading." Continue to expose him to words and language and, in time, you'll see tangible results.