The ability to read is a vital skill for everyone. Those who cannot read are at a distinct disadvantage. Reading is critical for achieving well in school and tertiary education. Developing a child’s love of books will open up new worlds and allow their imaginations to be unleashed without limitations. Reading is essential for most forms of learning, follow instructions and many ordinary day to day tasks ie. directions, shopping lists, prices of items, following a recipe… the list is endless
So it’s important to set the right tone for reading and a love of books from a young age. The foundation for reading begins at birth. But how you can instill a love of reading or introduce books to your infant or baby?
Here are some simple ideas you can utilise:
Any kind of tactile book is great for a baby. Anything with flaps, mirrors, texture or sound should hold their interest for a little while. Your little one may be more interested in putting this book in his or her mouth initially, which is very normal. Babies love looking at themselves in mirrors so a tactile book with a mirror should hold their attention too. Sometimes they may be interested in turning the pages, other times they may be interested in play with, throwing or chewing the book. All of this is perfectly natural and the idea is to encourage exploration of and interest in the books.
Simple Board Books
These are books with action language, pictures or sounds. These books aren’t very long and normal focus on 5 or 6 different things ie. parts of the body, animal sounds, facial expressions. They are also normally bright and colourful so are likely to hold your baby’s attention. Again, your baby may like to taste, chew or throw the book as much as he or she enjoys leafing through the pages.
Place pictures of familiar faces in a photo album. Your baby will love paging through pictures of his or her loved ones. You should also place some pictures of your baby in this album as well as any family pets. As you turn each page, you can talk to your baby about anything fun experienced with the people on each page. This will reinforce the positive experience as well. Soon your baby will be able to turn the pages and identify each picture as well.
There are a variety of First “100” or theme books. These are usually bigger sturdier books ie. 100 animals, 100 vehicles, A- Z books. You can sit with your child and page through the books, pointing to the pictures and naming the objects, animals or colours on each page. Children love repetition and once your child has a favourite book or too, they will probably want to leaf through it often. This repetition will assist with picture and word recognition and will lay the foundation for reading and letter identification.
Once your child is able to hold a book, a visit to the library makes a fantastic outing. Offer your little one a selection of age appropriate books and see which ones he or she prefers and holds their attention the longest. Most libraries allow you to check out 7 books at a time so you will have a variety to offer your child and they will love the idea of being able to take the books home.
Follow your child’s interest
You may be driving and pass a digger and your child goes wild with excitement. Your child may display a huge interest in dogs, horses or flowers. These days you can find a book about just about anything. If you child develops an obvious interest in something, look for a picture book or board book related to that topic. Not only will you have a delighted child but you will further be instilling a love of reading
Set an example
If your baby or toddler is happily playing under your supervision, this is a great time to bring out your own magazine or book. Your baby may become interested in your magazine and want to page through it with you. If not, they will see you reading and will be more likely to want to explore books themselves. Parents are often told to set the tone for their older children by demonstrating how much they enjoy reading. What better way to display this love of reading than having books and magazines accessible and part of the family “norm” from the moment your infant comes home.
It’s important to remember to make books fun. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t show any interest at all initially or just wants to use a book as a teething toy. Introduce books often and experiment with a variety to discover which ones your child prefers. Also bear in mind that babies have very short attention spans so may have limited interest. The more opportunity you give you child to interact with books, the greater the chance that they will start to play with and page through books. Never force the issue but create lots of opportunity.
Written by: Monique Loewenthal
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