In the womb, babies learn the sounds and cadence of the voice and language of their whānau. Reading to your child (and encouraging older tamariki to read to siblings) supports language learning, grows relationships and increases communication skills.

Why do it?

  • It’s an opportunity for baby to hear and become familiar with their parents’ voices and the languages they speak.
  • Baby is beginning to ‘wire up’ for the language that’s used in their family home.
  • It’s an opportunity to develop a way to soothe baby when it needs help settling after birth.

How to do it

  • Choose something to read that you enjoy, as it’s likely you’ll be reading it many times.
  • If baby has an older sibling, one of their favourite picture books would be a good choice to read to baby. It could be read together — or maybe the sibling could read it to baby themselves?
  • Baby’s ears are filled with amniotic fluid, so they hear as if they’re under water. Reading in ‘parentese’ will help baby to hear the story from the womb.
  • Parentese is a way of talking — use a higher pitch, speak more slowly and exaggerate vowel sounds.

Using more reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Talk, communicate
Pānui pukapuka Read book
Older sibling/cousin of the same gender
Brother of a girl
Sister of a boy
Joy, happiness, euphoria
To soothe
Hangaia he pukapuka Make a book
Whakahuri te whārangi Turn the page