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About the Author

Penelope Leach, educated at Cambridge University and at the London School of Economics, is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a founding member of the U.K. branch of the World Association for Infant Mental Health. She works on both sides of the Atlantic for organizations concerned with prenatal care and birth, family-friendly working practices, child care, and early-years education. She lives in Lewes, England.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Importance of Reading to Children
A web-exclusive guide for parents written by Penelope Leach, Ph.D.


When parents read aloud to their children, everyone wins. It's fun for the adult and great for the kids. Easy for you and good for them. You don't even have to ration it because, unlike TV or ice cream, there's no such thing as too much.

There's no such thing as too early, either. If you wait until pre-school to start reading to your children, you'll have missed out on years. If you even wait until they can talk, you'll have missed out on months. Start showing your baby pictures and telling her about them as soon as she focuses her eyes on the pattern on your sweater or the change-mat.

"Reading" to tiny babies is a way of talking to them; and talking not only speeds brain development, but cements relationships as well. Make sure that anyone who ever cares for your baby takes reading to her for granted."Reading" to older babies is a way of expanding their experience. You can't always find a real cat or truck or fried egg to tell him about, but you can always find their pictures in books. And linking the sight of things with the sounds of their names boosts language learning.

Reading to toddlers is education and loving and talking and fun. It's about language itself and discovering the joys of jokes and rhymes and huge long words that roll round the tongue and trip it up. It's about learning to "read" pictures to find the meanings of words or the answers to questions hiding behind those thrilling pull-tabs: where's the kitten gone? There he is...And eventually it's about the sheer, entrancing magic of stories unfolding between the pictures and the voice; playing to a dawning imagination, a fledgling ability to put herself in someone else's place.

And reading to pre-schoolers is all that, plus a welcome to our culture where everything--even on the information highway--revolves around the written word. Pictures on the page are his introduction to print; being read to helps him toward written language, now, just as it helped him toward spoken language two years ago.

Once your kids are hooked on being read to, they will never be bored if somebody will read, and since there are bound to be times when nobody will read and they are bored, they'll have the best possible reason to learn to read themselves.

Reading to themselves isn't a signal to stop reading to them, though. Whether your child is five or seven or nine years old when he starts to read stories to himself for pleasure, the mechanics of the words will still get between him and their enthralling sounds and meanings. Read just one more chapter; one more poem. You have nothing to lose and your kids have everything to gain.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Rev Upd edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375712038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375712036
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Practical, common sense advice.
Victoria A. Alba
I have been gifting this book to my expectant friends for 30 years, since I purchased it when I had my first baby back then!
patricia destein
I would highly recommend this book to any new parents.
Mrs Rhiannon C Dowding

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Reilly on June 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm jumping in waaay late on this one, as my sons are in college now, but this book, and this lady, are wonderful. I was a stay at home dad (even though I bartended at night) back when there weren't many dads doing the child care thing. Penelope was an invaluable resource to me, as I didn't have lots of other parents to go to- when you're the only male in the bunch, you can hang out with the moms some, but TOO much seems creepy. So Penelope, T. Barry Brazleton, and a book called "It Worked For Us" (which is awesome, because it lists specific problems and then gives multiple solutions from real parents) were a HUGE help for me. I'd also be willing to bet that she has videos on YouTube. I would advise you to check them out as well. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do, but the most rewarding. And I swear, when that part of your life is past, you'll miss it. I know I do, occasionally. Whether this is some form of masochism or Stockholm Syndrome is up for debate, but I'd never trade my days with my sons when they were small, and the world was ours.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Emre Sevinc on May 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I heard that I'd be a father for the first time in my life, I had mixed feelings and started to ask myself a lot of questions. One of the questions I still ask myself is very simple: The baby arrived home safely and then what? In other words, where's the documentation for the most complex entity that I'll interact for a long time? I guess it is natural to ask this kind of question because I'm a professional software developer and having been involved with computers for the last 20 years I'm used to reading some detailed documentation before and during my interaction with things that I'm not familiar with. And I'm definitely not familiar with raising a baby (having a younger brother does not count, that was about 30 years ago and I don't remember much about the basics).

When I mentioned this to Chris Stephenson, former head of computer science department of Istanbul Bilgi University whom I had the privilege to work with and the experienced father of a wonderful child, he said that there was one book which he gave as a gift to every young parent expecting a child. Based on his advice I decided to buy and read "Your Baby and Child". And I'm very glad that I did.

Some of you may think it is a little bit too early to comment on the book; yes I'm still an expecting father, our baby is yet to come but after reading this book I feel much less scared and more confident. It full of so much practical information that I do not feel the need to go out and look for another book on this topic.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. Carlson on March 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have so many friends who worry constantly that their child isn't doing what he or she "should" be. They expend a lot of energy and feel like poor parents (they are not.) I can't imagine that they would feel so beat up if this book had been their primary reference. Leach's advice is pragmatic and comprehensive - I have yet to come across a baby problem she didn't address - but everything is tempered with the understanding that babies (and parents) are different and deviation from the norm is not failure. She highlights what parents do and don't have control over and, in the latter case, provides advice on how to cope.

Her primary focus is on development and how children process the world at various stages. She starts from the premise that babies are not capable of manipulation and therefore cannot be spoiled. With older children, the focus is on helping children learn to navigate the world, rather than on a standard of behavior. (My favorite part is when she states that helping babies sleep through the night is "skills training, not discipline.") Her approach resonates both with my instincts and with what I have been told by several doctors and child psychologists.

Do be aware, however, that some of the products she mentions are not in keeping with current standards in the US, notably drop side cribs and bouncers that hang from the doorframe (Eek!). Also, some of the photographs have not been updated and a few kids are rocking AWESOME late-1970's haircuts and clothes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Clover on January 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reassuring, non-preaching, with a warm tone, this book is the go-to-resource in the middle of the night, when there's not another parent you can ask, or when you're thinking about questions to ask the pediatrician in the morning.
A book so thoughtful that you'll find answers even after several years of parenting.
It is written in a very appealing and easy form.
I was given it as a gift, and have bought it many times for others. This is the book that I most often give to new parents (followed by "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn.)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. Miller on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
I can only say that I raised two beautiful children who grew up to be confident, happy and kind human beings and that is partly due to this book. I'm buying it now for my daughter who is going to be having her own soon making me a grandma. It's a great read, straight forward and gives very good advise, I'll be re-reading it again, since it's been awhile.
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