“Five Mumma. Five!” Zac said excitedly as we walked through the supermarket. He was so very young at the time (in our eyes), maybe 15 months old, I shrugged it off as random toddler babble. Until I looked up and realised, he could recognise the aisle numbers. He could remember and recall numbers and words when it felt so soon for our little man to be doing so.
This is not to say we have a child genius extraordinaire on our hands, this is proof that reading to babies helps them to interpret the world around them. It is the basis on which they will build their developmental blocks for not just academic purposes but for general life skills that assist them to read maps and signs, medical documentation, invoices and bills, legal documents, instructions on how to assemble furniture – really the list is endless. Without the ability to read, there are so many necessary activities that a person would find difficult and they would also miss out on the fun of stories, magazines, comics, journals and blogs – like this one (ha ha)!
But why read to a very young baby? This is a question I had asked myself as a new parent. Pondering how reading books or anything can actually achieve anything with such a young mind. Here is my personal experience that proves reading to babies and young children is worth the time and effort you put into it.
Zac was a newborn when we began to read to him. Beginning with basic baby books about animals, vehicles and other objects. We would also walk around and point out signs and repeat numbers and words to him – not knowing if any of this would have an impact at all. We had been told the language you use with babies are the blocks that build their awareness of the world around them on a verbal level yet we had no clue that these beautiful bonding moments would help Zac to be confident with reading and interpreting by the time he began school.
The skills developed by early literacy building are basic but important:
- Knowledge of turning a page
- Understanding if a book is the right way up
- Reading left to right
These are the fundamental tips we have utilised to assist our boys with reading:
- Variety of books, not just beautiful, shelf worthy stories, let them read about insects and bugs (even if you yourself cannot bear to look at a wolf spider!)
- Variety of mediums, including songs, reading and describing things you can see, apps like Reading Eggs
- Emphasize sounds and break down the words
- Converse with your baby, even if they cannot speak clearly but know what they are intending to say then try to assist them with speaking the correct word with an encouraging tone
- Point to the words
- Follow the sentences with your finger
- When children are older, ask them to pick which word you have said
- Discuss what is seen in the pictures, point out objects and repeat their names
- Storytelling. It can feel embarrassing to start with but when you watch their little faces light up with curiosity and amazement then you can easily put aside your own feelings of hesitation
- Repetition and consistency
I’m not superhuman, reading extensively every single night doesn’t always happen. Some nights if you looked inside my brain I’m sure there’d be scrambled eggs because I am so tired. This motherhood gig is a hard grind whether you’re a working or stay at home mum! This is when I am lucky to have an other half that picks up the dropped ball and reads with our boys too.
Siblings do influence each other also. We began our reading journey with Zac each night before bed and whenever he showed interest throughout the day. Some days he really was not interested at all and I was unsure if he would ever pick up the habit and get involved willingly, but now that he does, his one year old brother follows suit. Judd will pull books out and turn the pages, analysing what he sees and speaking in his baby babble. Zac comes along and finds the words Judd is looking for, taking him under his wing and teaching him the same steps we once did as a baby. Reading can bring the family together.
Much of what we have learnt about reading has come from literature from our maternal child health nurse and council mothers group host, along with the raisingchildren.net.au website (which I highly recommend) but many tips have come from my mother in law and friends who are primary school teachers. If you have contacts in education definitely pick their brain about steps you can take to help your little ones with literacy because most would suggest reading to your children as early as possible.
I will leave you all with this extremely hard-hitting video that funnily enough Zac’s primary school shared with new parents throughout parent transition sessions. Ten minutes a day is all it takes…