Reading & Signing From Birth-Giving Your Child the Verbal Edge

Yesterday the American Academy of Pediatrics added reading aloud to the standard recommendations aimed toward healthy early childhood development. We too advocate reading as an integral part of vocabulary development and the shaping of communication skills and expression for all babies and toddlers.


If you have not yet incorporated a daily reading routine to the life of your baby or toddler today is a good day to start. Research shows that many parents do not read to their children with sufficient frequency to make an impact and certainly not as much as researchers and educators think is crucial to the development of pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school.

Stanford researchers identified gaps in language learning as early as 18 months in households where in part due to social and economic limitations the baby/toddler has reduced exposure to reading, talking and singing.

Generally speaking most moms begin signing with baby in a more structured fashion between four to six months of age. However, if you are planning to incorporate a daily reading program from birth you would do well by adding baby sign language to reinforce motor skills, help baby make visual associations and give them a pre-verbal edge by helping them voice their needs, wants and interests even before they are able to form words. While the newborn may not sign immediately he is certainly observing and processing the visual feedback.


Begin reading sessions with simple books that introduce baby to rhyme, patterns, objects and concepts that are part of their daily routine. As the baby grows curious expand your reading selection to books that expose baby to concepts such as counting or categories, like animals or colors. While you and baby may have favorites do not remain stagnant. It is not uncommon for parents to memorize two or three books and seldom progress to new material that will challenge baby by exposing him to novel vocabulary and ideas.

We have compiled a list of wonderful books and paired each book with basic signs to help you get started:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Love You Forever

The Very Busy Spider

The Little Engine That Could

Little Blue Truck

Good Night Moon

Five Little Monkeys

Sheep in a Jeep

If you are expecting this is a great time to begin building a strong library for your baby. Consider keeping a set of baby sign language flashcards handy to combine with reading sessions and help baby make associations between illustrations commonly included in children’s books and real-life graphics available in our flashcard baby sign language kits. You can also print customized sets to match each book from our free digital baby sign language printable flashcard collection.

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