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Snuggle up with your baby and a good book and you'll do more than encourage her interest in reading--you'll also strengthen your emotional bond and stimulate her brain development. "Being read to often helps babies make new and lasting physical connections in their brains," says Danette Glassy, M.D., a Seattle pediatrician and member of the American Academy
of Pediatrics' Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care. Down the line, children who are read to do better in school than children who were not exposed to books earlier, research shows.
Even if your baby can't understand the words yet, she'll enjoy cuddling close and hearing your voice. For starters, choose board or cloth books that will withstand grabbing and teething. To appeal to a baby's eyes and ears, look for bright pictures and simple stories with plenty of rhyme and repetition. Try these classic titles and new favorites:
Baby, Boo! (AMAZING BABY) by Beth Harwood (Silver Dolphin Books, 2006; $6) Close-up photos of infants will captivate even the youngest babies.
Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 2004; $5) Your baby will love this rollicking, rhyming classic.
Little Quack's Hide and Seek by Lauren Thompson (Little Simon, 2005; $8) Bright colors combine with counting fun as a family of ducklings learn to swim.
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw (Houghton Mifflin, 1997; $6) Five sheep take a rhyme-filled ride that will get baby giggling.
Time for Bed by Mem Fox (Red Wagon Books, 1997; $7) Animal parents tenderly snuggle their babies to sleep in this soothing bedtime story.
Easy Open Board Book: Colors by Michel Blake (Candlewick Press, 2006; $6) Graduated pages make this book of vivid photographs perfect for small hands.