"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
- Emilie Buchwald
Reading together is one of the most important habits a parent or caregiver can develop with their child. Placing a child on your lap and opening a book is a great time to bond. It can relax them before naps and bedtime and when added to your bedtime routine it can help them learn its a signal to get ready to sleep.
Even before your baby can understand words they are learning. They are learning how to hold a book properly, how to turn the pages, how language sounds and that reading can be a comforting time together. Reading with your baby helps prepare them for the future. It builds a love of books and children who enjoy being read to are more encouraged to read on their own later on.
Reading together helps develop your child's vocabular, comprehension skills and general knowledge. Reading introduces children to words that they might not hear in everyday conversation. There is a direct link between how many words a child hears everyday and their reading and language skills.
A babies brain develops very quickly and very early, in fact 90% of brain growth happens before kindergarten. A babies brain doubles in size in the first year and keeps growing to about 80% of its adult size by age 3. During this time children are building connections in their brain that will wire them for future success and parents or caregivers can support this through loving relationships, healthy habits and communication skills building through talking, reading and play.
Even if they don't understand your baby will react in wonderful ways to reading. They might giggle or get worried when they hear the tone of your voice. When you lift a flap to reveal a hidden picture they can be surprised and want to try it themselves. They will mimic the sounds you make and begin to explore their reactions in a safe way together. Books that encourage exploration like cloth books, lift the flaps, books with different textures and pop-up stories can be really fun.
Finally, the best books for babies are ones with lots of pictures and only a few simple lines of text. Engaging your child with bright visuals will help them to understand the meaning of images which also leads directly to the development of literacy skills. Early readers gain a lot of help about what words are through the images around those words. Pointing to a picture and discussing it helps decode the meaning and teaches your child an important skill.
One of my favourite books that reinforce this message is 'Read to your Bunny' by Rosemary Wells. It gently encourages parents and caregivers to read to their children and shows the reward at the end for all of that effort. It goes like this: "Read to your bunny often, it's twenty minutes of fun. Twenty minutes of moonlight and twenty minutes of sun. It's twenty old favourite minutes and twenty minutes brand new. Read to your bunny often and your bunny will read to you."
So no matter how young, from newborn to toddler to preschool there are many reasons to read with your child. The library and its staff are great resources. We can help you and your child find the best books for their interest and age. You can also always come to storytime for a break from reading at home and for some early literacy activities and tips. Overall, we encourage you to take the time to read with your baby, it will benefit you both more than you can imagine!
The Benefits of Reading to your Newborn (Parents.com)
A 'million word gap' for children who aren't read to at home (ScienceDaily.com)
Why Early Childhood Matters: Brain Development (FirstThingsFirst.org)
Read Often and Early (ZerotoThree.org)