Research finds that early exposure to language has a “profound influence on children's learning through life,” according to this NPR story from 2014.
There's nothing to lose by reading to a young baby, only something to gain. To read to a baby or child, you are close to them, which is a bonding experience too!
The article states:
"Just one-third of children in families below the poverty threshold are read to daily. That statistic improves as family income rises. But less than two-thirds of children in families making $95,400 for a family of four are read to daily, according to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health. As a result, children in poorer families lag behind in language processing as early as 18 months of age, a study published last year in Developmental Science found."
I'm really passionate about reading to my son. Most of my childhood memories are about books. My mom gave me a love of reading by taking me to the library multiple times a week in the summer. I devoured books so much that when I misbehaved and couldn't watch TV for a week, I wasn't too disappointed because I had books.
So even though my son doesn't really get what's going on or appreciate it, it's good for him. A lot of things are good for kids, but they don't like it: broccoli, dental work, diaper changes, bedtime…
So reading is something that you can create a positive association with early on. So many older kids say they hate reading, but you can teach them to love reading early on. The more you read, the better of a writer and a learner and a speaker you are.
Here's some ways I am fostering a love of reading in a baby under a year old. At nine months old, I had read my son more than 200 books. That doesn't count the books at daycare, either!
Library story times
I took my son to a library story time on a weekend morning once when he was about three months old. I know he heard the story as he laid on the floor but there wasn't much else. Once he was seven or eight months old and could sit up and bounce up and down excitedly to the songs and the dances and watch the librarian read, it got a lot more fun. I can tell he LOVES it and I'm excited to see him interact with the activities more as he grows.
Set up reading stations throughout the house. Don't keep all the books in one spot. Have a basket of them in the rooms where you spend the most time. I have a basket of books in my son's bedroom and I have some on a shelf in the living room. This way, there's always books close at hand. He's more mobile now so he won't sit still like he did before. So, if he's in a cuddly mood and sitting in my lap, chances are that we are reading.
What we've also been doing is keeping a few books at our dining room table. It's not always possible when I'm trying to eat and feed the baby too, but I try to read him a story or two if it's just him and me sharing a leisurely weekend lunch or breakfast. I'll often get through two or three stories during breakfast and lunch on Saturdays!
Don't break the bank on books. Most of my books came from my aunt who scoured thrift stores for us. Check out thrift stores to get your own collection. We don't have many good ones here so to fill in the gaps, I get a big bag full of picture and board books for my son at the library any time I'm nearby. The bag lives in the living room and I make a stack elsewhere once they're read so I know to return them.