Parent and child enjoyment of reading usually begins when a child can attend, even momentarily, at picture books. Introducing books to a child can start at any age. Many parents prefer not to "read" to their children until they can sit up a bit in their lap and view the book as well as "help turn the pages". When you use picture books be creative and you can "make-up a story" if there are no words. As a child gets older ask questions such as..."What do you think will happen next?"
I applaud you asking this question as research has demonstrated that parents who read to children when they are young are helping create their ability to focus as school aged children.
CreativeRachna - the member who asked this question - selected this as the best answer posted by another Education.com member.
from a fellow member
We start reading specifically to a child at about 10 months of age. I currently have 3 children so before 10 months of age they still are present during the older children's story time but they get stories geared specifically to them at about 10 months.
When we first start reading books it is more about looking at the pictures and getting them used to the idea of how a book works (we start at the beginning of the book and turn one page at a time until the end)....that sort of thing. That doesn't mean it isn't valuable time because these are important skills to learn.
My kids all adore books and I can't imagine waiting until age 5 to start reading to them. My kids all started memorizing their stories around 18 months old so they could "read" to themselves so I would say they were definitely engaged in the content. Sometimes it was more about the rhyme and cadence (Sandra Boynton was an early favorite with all of my kids) then the meaning of the actual words but that doesn't mean they aren't engaged in the material....just perhaps in a different way then you would original think of.
Your question addresses a pertinent issue. There really isn’t a magical age where children suddenly become engaged and fully understand textual content, but comprehension rather depends on the individual child and his or her prior experiences with reading. A good age to start reading to your child would be as early as you can and often. Reading aloud to your child and having them see you read is a great way to expose them to reading at an early age. Whether or not you know that they comprehend the text, they are becoming exposed to the reading practice. Young toddlers whose parents read aloud to them may understand the oral language while not always comprehending the text on the page. However, through time, they may come to associate the words and the images in the book with what their parents express orally.
The age that children start to become engaged and understand text really depends on having the building blocks for reading. Helping your child acquire these pre-reading skills is essential for helping them piece together knowledge to read for understanding
An example of a pre-reading skill is correlating an image with a meaning and a sound. Young children and toddlers start to attribute these meaningful images as symbolic representations. For instance, a toddler may attribute the physical logo of a store with the oral expression of the store’s name and the physical store itself. The following article about reading for meaning concerns how identifying phonemes is essential for preparing kids for reading:
I started reading to my daughter at about 11 months. At 13 months, a neighbour aged 8, taught her all the letter sounds in one afternoon. By 2 years, she was reading confidently and never had to sound out a word. She turned out to have a very high IQ and has developed into a great adult who is fulfilling her potential.
My daughter has a baby daughter herself now. She started reading (and singing) to her from birth. I am amazed how intently the baby listens. Her favourite books are those that rhyme. Baby is now 8 weeks old.
Whether Baby is gifted or not, I am sure she will grow up loving books and all the better for her mother's loving attention.
In my opinion reading to your child while in the womb is a waste of time. There's nothing stopping you from starting to read to your child from birth though. Make it fun and engaging and they will love it. I've had fabric books clasped to their stroller, pram etc they have loved it. Keep plenty of books at home, car, etc and read little and often. My children love nursery rhymes and that also helped with their early reading. Make the most of your local library and encourage books for birthday gifts and have book swapsie parties, have fun. :)