By Liz Nankivell
People often ask us when we think our books will be suitable for children and I always reply that you can read to children from almost the moment they start to notice the world around them. This is certainly what I did with my daughter but to make sure I’m not spouting complete rubbish I decided to do a little research and this is what I came up with.
Studies do indicate that early exposure to books makes a long-term difference to children’s language abilities and to their eagerness to learn how to read. In June 2014, the US Academy of Paediatrics made a policy statement to formally recommend that parents read out loud to their children every day. http://goo.gl/sOZoLw
Dr Pamela High who authored the policy statement and is Director of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., and a professor at Brown University, seeks to address two issues here: to ‘immunize against illiteracy’ and create ‘a nurturing experience that promotes social and emotional development during a critical period of early development.’ Hector Tobar picks this point up in his excellent blog post for the LA Times http://goo.gl/FhDpfW where he quotes Dr Peter Richel saying that reading to children: “…also enriches the family experience, and contributes to social/emotional development.”
Both issues are of great interest to us in the UK and are high on the political agenda as this September 2014 article in The Huffington Post shows http://goo.gl/7gDwQV.
So here are some tips to start reading with very young children.
From birth to 6 months:
Choose books with bright pictures and little or no text. Books with mirrors and peep holes are good. Go for books made of card or fabric which are resilient to little hands that might pull quite hard. Reading is about cuddling up with you, feeling safe and loved and hearing your soothing voice. Understanding what the books are about is not important at this age.
From 7-12 months:
As babies start to understand key, repeated words like Daddy and Mummy, it is good to choose books that focus on one thing. Point to the pictures as you say the words so your baby starts to link everyday items with the words that describe them. Your baby will babble back to you. Books with different textures offer an extra sensory experience.
Choose books with a sentence or two on each page. Try using different voices for different characters. For animal characters use animal noises. Babies love this and they will soon be repeating the animal noises back to you when you show them the animal pictures. Start to involve your child and ask them questions like, “Who is that?” or get them to start to relate words to themselves, such as “Point to your mouth.” By 18 months they may be able to ‘read’ board books on their own and they will happily help turn the pages of any book you are reading with them.
Children now start to have favourite stories and they may even insist that you read the same book every night and that you tell the story in the same way. Many people tell us that Binky Bear books are the current must-read in their house. Children love the flow of rhyming language and as you read the verses you can stop and let your child fill in the missing word. Eventually as they start to talk fluently they will be able to recite the whole book. The repetition may drive you round the bend but it is helping your child make sense and remember words.
Writing this has taken me down memory lane and here are three books which were firm favourites in our house. All of them are now available as board books.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin, £4.99)
Peepo! By Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Puffin, £4.99)
Hug by Jez Alborough (Walker Books, £5.99)
Here is the Guardian’s Classic Children’s library: http://goo.gl/qWF2MZ
To find out more about the Binky Bear books click here.