What are the Benefits of Reading Board Books to Babies?

Children’s books are available in various sizes and formats, including paperbacks, hardbacks, and board books; the latter of which has been gaining popularity among toddlers. Board books offer a range of benefits to young children and play a crucial role in laying the foundation for their learning journey. [1] These books are particularly effective in engaging toddlers’ creativity, leading to a significant increase in their sales. As a result, there is growing interest in self-publishing and printing board books from various individuals and groups.

What Is A Board Book? 

A board book is a unique type of children’s book characterized by its construction. Instead of regular paper pages, each page is made up of two sturdy sheets of cardboard glued together back to back. This robust design allows the pages to lay flat when opened, creating a seamless two-page spread. [1] The magic lies in how the images are placed – the left print of space is mounted on the back of the right page from the previous spread, and the right image is installed on the left page of the next spread. However, it is important to note that while board books are a type of children’s book, not all children’s books fall into this category. Children’s books, especially picture books, typically come in three different formats: paperbacks, hardbacks, and board books.

Moreover, board books are typically short and straightforward for children to read, and they may not always adhere to the multiples of eight rule. Looking at a home bookshelf, the shortest board book found had 8 pages, while the longest had 32 pages. Board books usually contain less text, varying from a sentence per page to just a word or even no words at all.

What Age Group Are Board Books Designed For?

Board books are specifically tailored for the youngest readers due to their durability. They are ideal for babies and toddlers as they can withstand rough handling without sustaining damage. The sturdy cardboard pages ensure that even if little ones attempt to pull them apart, the pages remain intact. These books are often used to introduce infants and toddlers to fundamental concepts such as colors, numbers, shapes, and letters. However, board books can cover a wide range of topics, including science or history. Typically, they feature bright and colorful illustrations accompanied by minimal text, usually just a word or two on each page. This format aids children in recognizing simple words, especially when presented in a large text size.

While the content and structure of board books primarily target children aged 0-3, they can also serve as an excellent option for older children who are developing their motor skills and require a more robust alternative to delicate picture books or paperbacks. [2] 

7 Benefits of Reading Board Books to Babies

Benefits of Reading Board Books to Babies

Reading books with young children is not just an enjoyable activity for parents, but it also offers numerous benefits for their development. Parenting sources and experts have highlighted these advantages, emphasizing the importance of reading age-appropriate books with kids. Let’s delve into some of the benefits of reading board books to your child:

1. Parent-child bonding: “Reading to your newborn creates a unique and intimate bonding experience,” explains Dr. Mary Ann Abrams – Reach Out and Read medical director. [3] This one-on-one activity allows you to spend special time with your baby, fostering a close connection between you both. The sound of your voice as you read soothes and comforts the baby. A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics revealed that reading to babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can even help parents develop feelings of intimacy similar to those experienced by parents of healthy newborns in the early days and weeks after birth. [3] Moreover, engaging in shared reading experiences from an early age creates positive associations with books and instills a lifelong love for reading in the child. This joint activity not only strengthens the parent-child relationship but also lays the foundation for a positive and enduring relationship with books and literature as they grow older. [4] 

2. They learn shapes and sounds: By repeatedly reading the same board books, children begin to distinguish between various shapes and sounds. [3] This process is essential for laying the foundations of language learning. When parents or caregivers read board books aloud, children are exposed to a consistent and predictable language pattern. This repetition aids in their ability to identify and remember shapes, letters, and even simple words. Gradually, the young minds start recognizing the distinct sounds associated with each shape or letter, promoting phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is a crucial pre-reading skill that involves understanding the individual sounds (phonemes) that make up words. [4] Developing this skill helps children later on when they begin to sound out words and read independently.

3. It encourages exploration: Babies begin showing excitement around three months of age when presented with toys or books. At this stage, they can move their eye muscles to examine objects and demonstrate the ability to identify most colors. [3] To nurture their curiosity and language development, consider selecting toys and books with contrasting colors, patterns, textures, and sounds. Opt for items that offer flexibility in movement, providing ample opportunities to describe the toys or pictures using a diverse and rich vocabulary. Additionally, cloth or board books become especially intriguing for babies at this stage, particularly those with images of faces or familiar objects. These books allow babies to practice object recognition and begin grasping basic language concepts. [3] Engaging with these books with your child, pointing out and naming objects or characters, supports their language development and strengthens the parent-child bond.

4. Helps building mental connections: Infants are particularly attuned to the rhythm and cadence of voices, especially those of their parents and caregivers. While certain phrases may not hold immediate meaning for them, they absorb the sounds of language and how the words fit together. [4] As you read a book to your baby and point to a picture of, for example, a red bird, and name the bird, they start making connections between the spoken words and the corresponding images. With each repetition of the book, this connection grows stronger. The repetitive storyline makes the reading experience enjoyable and engaging and aids in memory retention. [3] Through these repeated interactions, infants begin to build their understanding of vocabulary, grasping the meanings of words and their association with the world around them. As they grow older, this understanding of vocabulary forms the basis for their speaking vocabulary as they begin to communicate verbally.

5. It entertains them: As babies grow and explore the world around them, they naturally put everything in their mouths, and books are no exception. By around four months old, they begin showing interest in books and might explore them by chewing or tossing them. [3] During this stage, it’s best to provide sturdy vinyl or cloth books that can withstand chewing and are not easily torn. With their durability and resistance to drool, board books have become especially appreciated at this stage. Moreover, between six to twelve months, babies become less interested in mouthing books and more interested in the stories they hold. [3] As a parent or caregiver, you can encourage your baby’s interest in books by looking at them together and discussing the pictures, especially those that catch your baby’s attention. By inviting your eight- or nine-month-old to turn the pages, you’re actively involving them in the reading experience and fostering their curiosity and engagement with books. 

6. They help kids improve their fine motor skills: Board books play a crucial role in developing fine motor skills in young children, especially through the simple action of turning pages. [4] This seemingly effortless activity actually helps toddlers learn the mechanics of various objects while also refining their muscular movements. As children manipulate the pages of a board book, they engage their hand-eye coordination and dexterity, which are essential components of fine motor skill development. [2] This repetitive action strengthens the small muscles in their hands and fingers, improving their ability to precisely grasp and manipulate objects. Furthermore, board books offer the advantage of durability with their thick and sturdy pages. This means that little hands, which might be less gentle with delicate materials, can explore and interact with the book freely, without the risk of tearing or damaging the pages. This encourages children to explore independently and gain confidence in their abilities, leading to a positive and enjoyable association with books and reading.

7. It provides a restful sleep: Reading to babies before bedtime can be a calming and comforting activity that prepares your child for sleep. While it may take a few sessions to find the right books and establish a suitable routine, incorporating calm and unhurried reading into your little one’s nighttime ritual can set the stage for a restful night’s sleep. [3] The act of reading to babies creates a peaceful and nurturing environment, promoting a sense of security and relaxation before bedtime. As you read in a gentle and soothing tone, your child may begin to associate the rhythmic sound of your voice with comfort and tranquility, making it easier for them to wind down and drift off to sleep.

Conclusion: 

Board books offer enjoyable bonding moments with your child, whether before bedtime or during the day. Beyond entertainment, they promote mental, motor, and vocabulary development. Their sturdy pages and captivating stories engage young minds, encouraging cognitive growth and memory retention. Interactive reading helps children connect words with images, enhancing language skills. Additionally, flipping pages refines fine motor skills like hand-eye coordination. These books create cherished moments for parents and caregivers, fostering a lifelong love of reading. With colorful pages and durable construction, board books are valuable tools for early learning and discovery.

References 

[1] https://www.bookprintingchina.com/blog/the-benefits-of-reading-board-books-to-babies

[2] https://www.twinkl.com.ph/teaching-wiki/board-book

[3] https://blog.beamingbooks.com/board-books-babies

[4] https://www.penguin.com.au/articles/3817-4-benefits-of-board-books