As a former English teacher and a forever bibliophile, I will go to my grave touting the benefits of reading to and with our babes of all ages. If you think they're too young to be read to, I beg to differ. If they're squirmy and won't sit still for a whole book, so you think it's pointless to read, wrong-o. If you think they're not paying attention, so your time is better spent elsewhere, I challenge.
In the classroom, I could always tell which of my students had been read to as young children and which hadn't. And those who had been read to always achieved and comprehended at a much higher and more thorough rate. There is only so much that a teacher can do if literacy isn't stressed at home first and always. Parents are babes' first and best teachers.
Why read to your babes?
- vocabulary booster
- foundation for reading
- success in school (or unschool)
- bonding time
What should you read to your babes?
- board books
- picture books
- audio books
- rhymes and songs
- books with few words on each page
- anything and everything
How should you read to your babes?
- on your lap, while breastfeeding, snuggled up - make a connection
- point at pictures
- do the voices and facial expressions
- keep it short, sweet, fun, and frequent
- watch your babe's sight line and talk about what he or she is looking at
- stop for a while if your babe loses interest - a little good time is better than a lot of not-so-good time
- let your babe turn the pages (and it's OK if he or she flips them before all the words are read - it should be fun)
- take turns with Q&A throughout the book (sometimes you ask, sometimes you answer)
- love on your babe the whole time
When should you read to your babes?
- when you and child are relaxed, comfortable and happy
- every day
Why are you, the parent, so important for early literacy?
- you know your babe best
- you can help them learn the way it is easiest for them
- your babe adores you, so will look to you for examples
Here are four more of the best ways to get your babes ready to read:
What do I mean by that?
- talk with your babe, not just to or at them, and practice active listening
- repeat what your babe says to you using different words to expand vocabulary
- if you are multilingual, speak first in the language you know best and then translate into the other language(s) you wish him or her to learn
- sing the alphabet song (one good suggestion I read was to sing it during teeth brushing...two-fer!)
- sing nursery rhymes to learn different sounds
- clap the syllables out
- allow and encourage scribbling, marking, drawing, coloring - whatever!
- have your babe "sign" his or her name on their art to help them correlate print and words
- make up stories about your babe's artwork together and tell the stories together
- plenty of unstructured imagination time to just do what babes do
- help make up plays, puppet shows, other dramatic acts with toys, fingers...whatever
- read an imaginary book together and have your babe "read" to you based on the "pictures" he or she sees
Little opportunities for literacy are all over the place. Converse with your babe all day long. Even if your babe isn't talking yet, you can still talk with them (remember, the "with" is important as opposed to "to" or "at"), because they're definitely trying to talk with you! Listen to them. They have a lot to say even if you don't always understand exactly what it is and it is all important. Make a nook for reading in your home. Have some books available, maybe a comfy bean bag or floor pillow, a nice reading lamp (not too harsh) and make the nook your and your babe's first stop in the morning and last stop before bed. Use your imagination. Get creative. If you're not the creative type, use your babe's imagination and creativity - they haven't lost the good stuff yet and with your help, hopefully they won't ever lose it.