Tips to give your baby a jump start on learning.

As the editor of Highlight Hello, a magazine for infants and toddlers, I often hear parents ask, "What's the point in reading to babies? Aren't they too young to understand?" The answer is that children are never too young for reading. In fact, reading to your baby is one of the most important ways that you can give him or her a jump start on learning. Hearing words from their parents is how babies learn language - and this occurs long before a child says his or her first word. Moreover, research has shown that the more words children hear before age 3, the larger their vocabulary will be and the better they will do in school over the long term.

So is there a right way to read to your baby? Not really, but here are a few tips that may help.

Ask questions: Pointing to the pictures in the book as you read will help your baby learn the meanings of words. Ask your baby questions about the pictures such as "Where is the red ball?" Even if your child is too young to point to the picture, conversing with your little one will help him build language skills. Sing the words: When you read or recite nursery rhymes to your child, try singing the words instead of simply saying them. Have fun making up your own tunes for these short, rhythmic rhymes. Make it fun: Give the characters funny voices when you read a story. Be expressive when you communicate a character's emotion, whether it be happy or sad. Animated storytelling will help keep your child engaged. Short reads are okay: When your baby is little, she may not have the patience to sit through an entire book. Reading a few pages at a time is okay. As she gets older, she'll become more willing to listen to longer stories. Read every day: Making books part of your daily routine will help your baby develop a lifelong love of reading. Set aside some quiet time during the day or at bedtime for stories. Make reading time together time: When you hold and cuddle your baby to read a book, you are creating an emotional experience that helps your baby feel secure and loved. Reading time is not just about sharing stories - it is about sharing time together.

-Kathleen Hayes is Editor of Highlights High FiveTM and Highlights HelloTM magazines. To learn more about Highlights products, please visit blog.highlights.com.