For the love of reading
You may wonder about the benefits of reading to your baby. An infant won’t understand what you are reading in anyway. To put it in perspective you wouldn’t wait until your child could understand what you were saying before you started speaking to him or her, right? Nor would you wait until he / she could shake a rattle before introducing them to one. All of these skills are taught and encouraged long before a child can master or even understand it.
Reading aloud to your baby is a wonderful shared activity you can continue for years to come and it’s an important form of stimulation.
The benefits of reading aloud:
- It teaches a baby about communication
- It exposes them to visuals. From 0-3 months, your child will start focusing on simple patterns on the pages. It introduces concepts such as shapes, colours, numbers and letters in a fun way and he/ she will start to recognise them as the months go on.
- It builds listening, memory and vocabulary skills. Children whose parents frequently read to them know more words by the age of 2 than children who have not been read to. Also it is important to note that this does not mean speaking, but understanding a host of words.
- It boosts brain power and language skills. Studies have shown that children who were read to as newborns have a larger vocabulary, as well as more advanced mathematical skills, than other children their age.There is also a direct link between how many words a baby hears each day and his / her language skills. Your baby improves language skills by imitating sounds, recognising pictures and learning words.
- It gives babies information about the world around them and they respond in kind. Newborns start by responding to the rhythmic movement of your voice with his / her arms and legs.
- It introduces emotion. When you read, your child is exposed to feelings through the emotions and expressive sounds you use, which fosters social and emotional development. The spoken word conveys the idea that words have meaning and certain sound mean certain things. Reading also invites your baby to look, point, touch, and answer questions all of which promote social development and thinking skills.
- It prepares them for reading on their own. While a newborn doesn’t understand what you are saying, he can still begin to pick up the rhythm, tones and inflections of your voice. Research shows that being exposed to a greater variety of words, better prepares a child to read on his / her own.
- Reading is fun. Making reading a part of your daily family routine, will teach your child that reading is something to be enjoyed. This attitude will also help later on when he / she goes to school as it will be viewed as something enjoyable and not a chore that needs to be done purely for school.
- Lastly, and probably the most important reason to read aloud is for bonding. Reading a book to your newborn is a one-on-one activity that can really be a special time of bonding, not only now but as they grow as well.. It makes a connection between the things baby loves most, you and being close to you, and books. It is a special time of cuddling, loving and building lasting memories. When children are read to often, with love, patience, joy, excitement and closeness, they begin to associate books with happiness, and budding readers are created.
Tips for cultivating a love of reading?
It is important to know that a love for reading is cultivated at home. Children do not simply learn to love it by themselves and so it takes effort from the parents’ side.
- Start early. Make this a special time for you and baby from newborn. It doesn’t have to last long, only a few minutes will do.
- Make it part of your daily family routine. Set aside time every day to read. It can be any time of the day, perhaps before bedtime. Make it part of the routine, like bath, brushing teeth and putting on pajamas. So it becomes a natural thing for them.
- Cuddle while you read. It makes your child feel safe and loved, and is a special bonding time with your child every night.
- Become part of the story. Read with expression. For example. Use different tones of voice for different characters. If the story is getting sad, lower your voice or show the excitement of the characters by also becoming excited for what is to come. This way reading becomes more engaging for them.
- Take your time. Don’t rush through the story and make it fun. As you read do not simply read and flip the page. Give your child time to stare and study the pictures, which will help them comprehend what you have just read. Also do not fret about reading the entire book at once. Stop on some pages, talk about what you see, and if you do not get to finish the story, that’s okay, you can continue again tomorrow.
- Comprehension. Don’t worry about following the text word for word. Stop to ask questions or discuss what is happening. Make comments on the pictures. Ask your child about the characters feelings, or what is happening. For young children who can’t answer yet, you simply just answer the question yourself. “How does the mommy feel? She is sad.” These type of questions help foster a better reading comprehension which is an important skill to have at school.
- Keep books around. They should be easily accessible for your child, so put them where he / she can reach. Give books at presents at birthdays or Christmas. It is nice to have a variety of books covering a range of topics, but it is not necessary to cultivate a love for books. Babies learn though repetition and they love it, so you only need a selected few and they won’t get bored. There is no need to be afraid of reading the same book over and over again.