I, myself, have great childhood memories involving books. That’s the reason why I wanted to write about this subject and tell you about children ages 0 to 18 months who discover books. Let me share with you my love for books.
At birth, the baby is obviously not a “word reader" but an "image reader ”. Before 18 months of age, the goal isn’t to sit baby down on your lap and read him a story. You can simply take out a picture book and look at it with your baby. Babies love to look at shapes and colors. At that age, reading is mainly understanding spoken words and their meaning. The idea is to associate each word with an object, person, action or image. So even before saying the words and eventually reading them, the child must know what they mean.
Discovering books includes manipulating them. You don’t actually have to read the book. A child may simply discover the book by flipping its pages a. Like any other toy, a child may get pleasure from a book without actually knowing how to read or understand it. Books should have a place in your child’s toy box, crib, playpen and even bath (with plastic books). Babies love looking at pictures and letting them play with books lets them learn how to manipulate them and flip the pages.
Babies love hearing stories, even if they are not fully capable of understanding them. An intense and deep bond is created when parents and their child read stories together. There is, beyond the written words, a deep communication moment between you and your child. For babies, stories don’t necessarily come from books. They come from you explaining what actions you are doing or that little song you sing to them. Don’t forget that the sound of your voice is very pleasant and comforting to your child.
Reading doesn’t always have to revolve around books. It’s much more than that! With children, no matter their age, the discovery of words can be done through games and activities. Learning words can be done through songs, lullabies, images or even by naming the things that surround them in a room. This phase in the child’s development is what we call “pre-reading”.
If you describe your environment out loud, even a simple walk through the park can become an amazing learning experience. Songs with gestures are also captivating and amusing for your baby. Every word you mime while singing will help your child understand its meaning. They will imitate you by making the gestures and they will eventually say some of the words. All the pre-reading activities will help you child develop his vocabulary.
Encourage rewarding reading activities
- Every reading time is play time. Make it fun!
- A book is a tool, but many things can be paired with it (puppets, stuffed animals, figurines, little toys, etc.)
- Pre-reading activities aren’t necessarily done with books. All the images and objects that surround you can do the trick if you name them out loud or invent a story with them.
- Remember that a child’s attention span is very limited. Don’t expect your child to stay concentrated for a 30-minute activity when he is under 12 months old. Even if your child only looks at the book for two minutes, he will at least have become familiar with it. With time, his experiences and interests, like the time spent with books, will surely increase.