Reading to an unborn baby in the womb! Sounds funny, isn’t it? Can learning, educating begins before birth? Can the fetus understand what is being read or what the mother says? These are again questions similar to what were referred to in my last post ‘effect of music on the baby in womb’. Words do not mean anything other than sound even to an infant up to three months, so how can reading benefit the child in the womb?
While good music sends in positive vibrations to the fetus, through the mother, reading has a different purpose. Reading is mainly promotes recognition of sounds. The fetus cannot decipher any word or its meaning, of what is being read or said. So there is no question of teaching a child in the womb. But reading to the unborn child does have certain benefits.
Recognition of sound-
The fetus can hear sounds by the age of 16-18 weeks (4-5 months). It starts differentiating and recognizing sounds after 22 weeks (around 6 months). Since the mother’s voice is the closest and the most frequently heard sound, the fetus first recognizes the mother’s voice. Gradually it starts recognizing the sounds it hears often, other than that of the mother’s – that of the father, siblings, grandparents, pets etc. Because these are sounds the fetus hears repeatedly, it becomes familiar with them while still in the womb. When the child is born, it feels secure and comfortable when he/she hears those familiar sounds which it heard while in the womb.
This is also the reason/logic why pregnant women are recommended to read or talk the child. When you say or read out aloud some children’s story, poetry, rhyme to your unborn child again and again, it becomes familiar with your voice, the various sounds and rhythms of the story/rhyme. After birth when the child hears those same familiar sound patterns he/she feels comfortable. The familiarity assures her/him and comforts him/her in the new unknown surroundings that he/she has come into, outside the familiar surroundings of the womb.
Reading is a great way of bonding with your child after as well as before birth. Imagine your unborn child in the womb as sitting on your lap and read out children’s stories and poems to it, lovingly with expressions. The father too can bond with his baby this way, by reading to it everyday. The child will get familiar with the father’s loving voice too.
Intelligence and vocabulary-
Reading to the unborn child has nothing to do with the intelligence of the child. Intelligence is a matter of genes, which the child gets from biological parents. Regarding vocabulary, some studies do show that kids who were read to, when in the womb, have better linguistic skills. To some extent this may be true. Because sounds of words which the fetus heard often becomes familiar, when the child begins to talk he/she may pick up words with familiar sounds faster. It is thus matter of recognition of sound. (One reason why kids pick up mother tongue faster). But this ability is limited because the child remembers only the limited words which were often said or repeated while it was in the womb. If you read out a new piece every time the fetus will not be able to remember anything, owing to the very limited capacity of the nascent brain development. Thus, the vocabulary part is also very limited.
What to read-
Simple children’s stories, rhymes, stories with morals or religious/holy books like Bible, Quran, Guru Granth Sahib, and Bhagwat Geeta etc. can be read to the child. Read to the child what you plan to read out to her/her when she/he is born. Read books which give you happiness and help you go through your pregnancy in a happy, stress free, positive manner.