Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Babies & Young Children: Sharing Books & Talking Together

Sharing books with babies and young children is a great way of helping them learn to talk, and a wonderful opportunity to share a cuddle at the same time!

Babies love to communicate. They are born sociable and come into the world with a willingness to communicate and learn. Their experiences in their early years shape their future social, communication and learning skills. Books can be a great way of helping babies and their parents during this period of discovery.

Seventy-five percent of brain development occurs in the first two years of life and babies need stimulation and attention to make the most of this opportunity. This is not as daunting as it may first sound, as stimulation comes from simple, everyday activities such as talking, listening, singing and sharing books together.

A language-rich home helps a child to develop in many ways. Talking to babies helps them learn to listen and gives them the chance to respond and be listened to. Over time, their coos, babbles and smiles will move on to first words and sentences. Interaction helps this natural process along.

Storytelling and book-reading are an easy way to have regular, additional talking time. Storytelling introduces structure and language patterns that help form the building blocks for reading and writing skills. Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and gets parents talking regularly to young children.

Reading to children on a daily basis gives them the best start to life. It is never too early to start communicating.

Tips For Parents
  • If you are at home, find a quiet place and turn off the TV or radio. This will help your children to listen without distraction.
  • There are many talking time opportunities throughout the day and reading can be a regular part of this. Try and keep a book in your bag at all times. Reading together can help a long journey or waiting time pass quickly and enjoyably.
  • Your baby will recognize and enjoy the sound of your voice. At times of distress, reading can be very calming, particularly when your voice is coupled with his favorite book or character.
  • Be slow and clear when you read and don't be afraid to use sing-song or funny voices for characters, or for words or phrases that are repeated throughout the book. After reading a book several times, your baby will anticipate hearing the change in tone and may well show this with a smile, widening of the eyes or a wiggle.
  • Don't be embarrassed or shy about using different voices or tones. Your baby will be an enchanted audience.
  • You could use props, such as puppets or his favorite cuddly toy, to help bring the words alive and add actions to your words. It all adds to the appeal of spending talking time together.
  • Give your child time to respond to your chatter. This could be with a babble, arm waving or gentle finger movement. Listening shows how interested you are in hearing what he has to say and encourages him in his natural discovery of communication.
  • Don't put pressure on your child to name pictures or objects, but if he follows your words, praise him and say the words again.
  • Don't read for too long. Young children get bored easily, so little and often is best. Try regular bedtime or bathtime story sessions.
  • It's good to share favorite books again and again. Repetition helps children to understand and remember the language they hear.
  • Remember you are not teaching your child to read. You learn to talk a long time before you learn to read, and book sharing is a wonderful way to help your children's language development.