A Baby’s Guide to Great American Literature

To Kill a MockingbirdWhen chief White House speechwriter Cody Keenan needed inspiration while writing the State of the Union address, which the president will give tonight, he paid a visit to his friend and colleague Benjamin J. Rhodes.

“It was after midnight, but Mr. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser and the writer of many of the president’s foreign policy speeches, was up reading To Kill a Mockingbird to his 4-week-old daughter,” the Times wrote

Sure, most parents read colorful picture books like Good Night Moon to newborns rather than classic American novels. But that’s just underestimating a four-week-old. Just because a month-old a baby is only beginning to understand that her hands and feet are connected to her body doesn’t mean that she isn’t ready to understand depression-era Southern racism.

But what other American classics should a parent read to a baby during the first six months? The Observer is here to help:

At five to six weeks, a baby’s neck muscles are getting stronger and he will be able to hold his head up for brief periods of time, according to Babycenter.com. And isn’t increased mobility the American Dream? Time to read The Great Gatsby to little Olivia or Hunter.

A two-month-old baby is probably smiling gummy smiles by now. So we recommend America’s greatest humorist Mark Twain. While Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are obviously classics, we would go with the less obvious Innocents Abroad. Twain’s prose is guaranteed to make an infant grin, but it also explores the origins of the stereotype of the American tourist and contributes to a richer cultural understanding.

Fast forward a month: “A big spurt is happening in your baby’s brain development that coincides with significant behavioral changes. Your baby is more attuned to the outside world and more sensitive to changes in his environment,” explains the Internet. Sounds like baby is ready to hear about another kid who is sensitive to the outside world. That’s right: Holden Caulfield. At three months, infants are better able to differentiate caregivers from strangers. Can an understanding of phonies be far behind? No, definitely not.

Baby is now four months old. Wow, it seems like just yesterday she was listening to To Kill a Mockingbird. It all goes so fast. But the baby’s vision is developing and he or she is getting better at distinguishing colors and shapes. Read The Scarlet Letter.

At five months, a baby is becoming more of a person, mimicking sounds in baby talk and all that. This is the ideal age to read On the Road to a baby. Or really anything by Jack Kerouac, who also experimented with sounds.

Six months: wait, the kid can’t read his own book yet? This is getting crazy. Time for the baby to develop her own taste in literature. Enough is enough.

A Baby’s Guide to Great American Literature