When should parents start reading to a child? Well the answer is, if you have not started yet then it should be NOW!!
Parents will be surprised to know that children can be read to from birth. An infant may not understand what the parents are reading, but will enjoy listening to the voice and the different sounds. As parents continue reading to them they will start to make meaning of the words and learn the threads of communication very early. Essential skills like listening and responding are inculcated from the beginning through reading. Continual shared reading builds strong bonds between parent and the child and better communication pathways. Parents do not necessarily have to read from a book! Storytelling, singing to the child, constantly talking to them about what parents are doing etc. also have similar effects.
I remember when our son was around 6 months old and loved tearing up the “newspaper”, my husband would wonder when he would be able to read the newspaper peacefully. He then started reading the newspaper out loud to our son. It then became an enjoyable time between them and they loved each other’s company. Of course, today you may need to screen what you read out but the idea is you do not have to rush to buy books to be able to read.
Once parents are successful in establishing joint attention with the infant, parents should move into presenting infants with books with only pictures to start with and then books with very few words but with large simple pictures. As parents and infants go through these books keep pointing, labeling the pictures and explaining the picture. Present real life objects along with the pictures in the picture books. This way your child’s vocabulary develops and they would be able to make connections as well as meaning with abstract reading. Labeling objects that interest your child is one way of building essential foundation skills for reading. Studies have shown that infants that have been read to grow up to be early readers. Infants display better grasping and learning skills, they will communicate clearly and grow up as confident children.
Labelling of basic emotions can be done with the help of rhymes like: “If you’re happy and you know it …….”. One should remember to animate these expressions on your face for the child to start recognizing these emotions. Action words can be taught by labeling when the child is doing the action and with the help of Rhymes.
Remember to choose books that are hard bound. Infants tend to mouth objects and may attempt to tear them, this is normal and don’t get worried. Instead, model appropriate ways of handling books. Hard bound books will handle the rough use better. Not giving books to children because they may damage them should not be an option. Give them opportunities to learn to use books properly.
Look for popular established authors and choose books that are age appropriate. The text should be legible and very simple. Lines that are repetitive and rhyming are children’s favorite. Children like repetition and enjoy reading the same book again and again. They love the predictability the book offers and they know what to expect.
Some of the popular books I recommend for infants are
Eric Carl’s “Brown bear Brown bear”, “Polar bear polar bear what do you hear”
Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”
Eileen Christelow’s “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”
Rod Campbell’s “Dear Zoo” which is a lift the flap book, Other Peek-a –boo books
Big book of Rhymes like “Wheels on the Bus”, “5 little ducks”, “I am a little teapot”, “Baby Beluga”.
Eric Hills “Where’s Spot” is a great book to teach positional language.
“Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” to teach body parts.
Even there is an Initiative devoted to this subject only. All About Child is a social initiative committed to empowering parents and educators with well-researched tools, techniques and resources that will build a strong foundation for successful learning.
Hope this article helps you to understand the Importance of reading to infants!