Reading to a baby can be a time of quiet or excitement, snuggling and learning. Parents and caregivers might wonder if the baby is understanding or absorbing what is being read, but researchers in child development have found that reading to a baby is important because the baby is listening to language, watching the reader’s mouth move, and picking up on changes in the reader’s tone. A baby’s brain is developing at an extremely fast pace, and much of his/her cognitive development comes about in the first six months of life. Reading to your baby enriches the baby’s development and can be a time of bonding for the caretaker and little one.
Grandparents often have the time and patience to read to small children and babies. Grandparents cherish the time spent with their grandchildren and can act as positive role models for the child. If a grandparent is involved in reading to a youngster, this gives the parent a moment to have a break or complete other tasks around the house. Reading as an activity is inexpensive, requires limited mobility, and can be a comfortable experience in the home; it is an ideal activity for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.
The pictures below illustrate a few key points to remember when reading to a baby or child. These points are easy to remember and offer a good starting point if you are wondering how to go about reading to a youngster in your life.
In the first picture, Casey is 8 months old. His grandfather is reading to him, and Grandpa has set Casey on a cushion so they both can easily see the pictures in the book. Notice Casey is on the right hand side and also places his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder. Having a favourite place to sit makes both the reader and child feel comfortable and helps the child realize this is reading time. Feel free to use cushions, a rocking chair, a bed, or any place you and the child can share in reading.
Notice in the following picture, Casey is 13 months old, and is sitting in the same position while reading with Grandpa, even with his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder. Grandpa found it helpful to have Casey sit on a cushion, on the right side, no matter where they read, so that Casey would remember what reading time is like. You do not need to read in the same place all the time, but little reminders for the baby, like a cushion will help the baby settle in to reading.
2. Sounds & Expression
Casey loves stories with animals in them, and likes the same stories read to him over and over again; this is common and allows the child to become familiar with the characters and sounds in the story. In the above photo, Grandpa makes the sound of the owl in the book, “Oooo.” Casey tries to imitate him and watches Grandpa’s mouth. Babies learn to form words by watching the mouth of the speaker, so make sure your baby is nice and close to you when reading.Casey once again watches Grandpa’s mouth form the words during reading.
Babies and children react to your voice as it changes – if you go from a low to high tone, imitate the sounds of animals, or laugh aloud, the youngster will be intrigued by these sounds. Parents often talk to babies in “baby talk” and experts have found that the rise and fall in voice cadence (rhythm) is not only soothing to a young ear, but helps that child recognize emotion in voice. In the photos above, Casey laughs along with Grandpa at a funny part of the story.
3. Involvement of Child
Encourage the child to find familiar characters on the pages of the story books. Ask the child to imitate the sounds you make and the voices you use. Sometimes it’s fun to make movements (ex: clapping hands) as you read to keep the child’s interest. When Grandpa read to Casey about the blue heron in Brown Bear, Grandpa always pointed to the sky to show Casey where the bird flies. Here, Casey has begun to point on his own to the sky, when he hears about the blue heron.
4. Encourage Independent Reading
Make books available to children and babies in places where they can reach them. Children will look at the pictures and open and close the books themselves. Allowing the children to play with books and become interested in them on his/her own will help the child see books as part of play. Books with bright pictures and simple words are great for babies, and don’t forget about classic nursery rhyme books and fairytales for toddlers!