When should you start reading to your little one? And which books are best?
In among all the other things we need to take care of as parents of babies, reading often falls by the wayside. Reading to under-ones – who have a limited vocabulary, after all – can sometimes (often!) be a struggle, and you can’t help but wonder if there’s any use to your efforts.
But don’t give up, says Cape Town based early childhood development specialist Wilma Tindall, since reading to children of all ages is good for a variety of reasons. She says that reading: ● Creates intimacy through the closeness and undivided attention that you give your child. ● Instils a love for books, stories, words and sounds in your child. ● Helps to develop language as children need to hear sounds and words and how words are joined together to make a sentence before they can begin to speak. ● Stimulates curiosity and learning about the world and things and people in it. ● Stimulates the imagination. ● Helps children to think about situations, emotions and problems, and how others handle these. ● Teaches children to feel empathy for others or other living things. ● Helps prepare children for school as it provides book handling and reading skills (understanding that written words mean something and can be deciphered).
She says that by about eight months, children generally have the capacity to concentrate for short periods and can spend time on your lap looking at pictures and listening to you naming things or saying something very brief about the pictures. “It’s not really about following a story at this early stage.”
“The value now is mostly in the loving attention and the happy time together – the closeness between the reader and the listener, the interaction with a bright, clear, simple picture that’s an introduction to books, and the idea of getting information off a page. It’s a good routine to begin in any case. Just keep the sessions short and fun.”
If your baby is younger than eight months, and you’re keen to start reading, Wilma recommends using things you find in the everyday environment – toys, bottles, cups, plates, clothes, even human faces and pets – pointing them out and naming them.
“As your child gets a little older, a very short sentence about each object helps with language development,” Wilma says.
“Sounds are fun for children – so are action rhymes.”
But don’t think that you have to go out and buy a whole load of books for your growing bookworm. Wilma says that with very young readers, you can get away with creating your own material. “For the very youngest readers you could have fun making a book from magazine pictures,” she says.
“That way you can make a book that matches objects from your child’s specific environment.”
Babies also love looking at other babies, so feel free to put your baby on your lap while you enjoy this magazine! Maybe just try and finish it yourself first, as it might get ripped up while baby “reads”. YB