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.
If a book has a particular interest for the child, he or she will ask for it over and over again. That’s all right! Go along with it. Repetition is an important learning experience. Eventually, the child will have taken in everything they need about the story and they will move on to the next book. Offer your child other book choices once in a while to stimulate his or her interest.
How to choose a child’s book
- Books made out of fabric are easy to manipulate. Baby will have an easier time learning how to flip the pages. Books with different textures are great to develop your child’s sense of touch.
- Images with contrasting colors to stimulate the eyesight of babies who are less than 4 months old (black and white is very interesting). Because their eyesight isn’t very clear at that age, babies are drawn to contrasts.
- Plastic, styrofoam or fabric books (that can be used in the tub) are great because babies put everything into their mouths and these may become wet.
- Rigid cardboard books can also be a great alternative for plastic and fabric books.
- Choose books with no or very little writing because babies are attracted to the images and the adult can stimulate language by naming things.
- A variety of images (one per page). In fact, picture albums are what interest babies most.
- Clear and well defined images that resemble the child’s reality.
- Real pictures of known objects. It may be cheaper to make the picture album yourself.
- Add fun to the reading activity by having objects related to the book.
- Objects are great to add another dimension when reading. These objects can be puppets, stuffed animals, plastic figures, etc…
- Books, just like other objects, must be chosen by taking their size and their safety level into consideration.
In conclusion, remember that there are plenty of pre-reading activities you can do with your child. Books remain interesting for toddlers as well. Enjoy these special moments when you read to your child. He or she will learn a lot and will have great memories to hold on to.
Enjoy your reading!
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