It’s what we believe in passionately at The Book Tree. Reading books to your children from birth is essential. According to this latest report in the New York Times the American Academy of Pediatrics has announced that they will now be advocating that parents read aloud to their babies from birth. Yes, you read right – along with all the usual breast feeding, weighing and immunisation advice, American pediatricians will be encouraging new parents to read to their babies from birth.
New studies have confirmed that the most important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and reading to children has been proven to enhance vocabulary and other important communication skills, so this is a vital developmental aspect of a child’s life that cannot be ignored or neglected.
When you have a quiet moment with your baby and he is not fussing or hungry, sit with him in your arms and let him hear your voice reading; rhythmically and regularly. Use different expressions, make sounds, vary your volume and don’t worry too much about the content of what you read. It can be a baby board book or a picture book, it could be your novel or an article in a magazine. As he gets older you can draw his attention to the pictures in the board book – just be prepared for him to be more interested in eating the book at first!
Whether or not pediatricians will all follow up on this reading advice, we’re so glad more and more people are saying it: ‘Read to your baby!’
- Keep durable (chewable) plastic and board books in a little bag or on a shelf and create book time from an early age. When you go on an outing, bring books to pass the time.
- Give books as presents. If you’re not sure what books they have, give book store vouchers. My standard present for a new baby is a set of my most loved baby books to start off their library. It’s a gift that will last forever and can be passed on to the next siblings.
- Create a gift book registry at a book store for your baby shower. Dominique of Yummy Baby in Parkhurst did this recently and was thrilled with the books she received.
- As babies get older, find books with great illustrations, and let them gaze at the pictures while you ask questions about what they see and get them to talk about it. “Where’s the dog’s ball? Why is the little boy laughing? Can you see where the big blue car is going?”
- Find books with babies as the heroes. Babies love pictures and stories about other babies – they love to identify with mini me’s and will often learn how to say ‘baba’ at the same time as they’re saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada.’ I saw this first-hand in a shop recently, when a little baby crawled from his mother to a pile of disposable nappies and patted the picture of the baby on the packet, saying “Baba” while trying to give it a hug.
- Take pictures of your baby and laminate them into a little book they can look at often. Pictures of family members and favourite toys, pets, places and food, work just as well. They will be transfixed by their personal story and it’s a lovely way of reinforcing identity.
- In addition to reading, talk aloud and involve them in your daily family communications. I’m personally not anti a bit of baby talk (it seems to be impossible not to shorten words like biscuit to ‘Do you want a bikkie?’ and I feel a bit sad for babies who are never given the chance to be babied a little, but that’s my personal opinion.) I do however think it’s important to talk to them normally as well, and tell them what’s going on around you. “Mommy is going to lie down now because she is tired. Do you want to come cuddle and look at a book?” as opposed to just scooping baby up and reading to them. Remember to balance the big talk with the small talk.
- Relax. Sometimes you don’t feel like talking or reading aloud and that’s OK. Babies need quiet time to watch and observe what’s going on. Over-stimulation will make them over-tired.
- It’s never too late. Feeling bad because your baby is now a toddler and you never read to them regularly? Don’t worry, just start today. They will respond amazingly quickly and with consistent reading you can make huge progress. Think of it as a master class in communication skills.
The Book Tree loves:
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Marla Frazee, was a gift from my cousin on my daughter’s birth and she adored it. The simple story of what babies do all over the world, from getting cuddled to playing, eating, crying and sleeping is told in simple rhyming text, creating a wonderful celebration of baby life.
Consider the classics below and don’t be limited by ‘baby’ books only. If you need an easy read – try a book of nursery rhymes. If you’re not sure about some of the more scary ones – skip over those and read here for the background as to why rhyming text is so important for children.