A great way to encourage the growth of language skills and promote later literacy is to read to your baby. When it comes to building literacy, experts agree that you can never start too early. Begin reading to your baby when he’s a newborn . . . yes, a newborn! You may think he is too young to be read to, but he’s not. Reading to your baby boosts language development. According to Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez in their book, Baby Read-Aloud Basics , reading to little ones helps them understand the meanings of words and learn uncommon ones. “Compared with ordinary talk between a child and parent, children’s books have three times more rare words.” In fact, by age 4, children who are read to are exposed to 32 million more words than children who haven’t been read books.
Even in the first few weeks of life, your baby’s little brain is making connections in understanding the rhythm of language, the particular sounds of your native language, and the meaning of voice tones when you read. Reading improves listening skills, memory, and attention span. Each time your baby hears a particular word or song, memory is built up in the brain. Eventually, these memories, or “connections,” become strong enough to create a skill or move the baby forward to achieving a language milestone. An added benefit of reading aloud to your baby is to promote parent/child bonding. Soon, your baby will associate book time with “love-y” time, cozy time, and happy time.
Remember, sharing books with your baby should be fun, not homework—with tickling of toes during playtime, a snuggly blanket during quiet time, and happiness from you at all times. Create a routine that includes snuggles, smiles, and serenity. Turn off the music and TV so your baby can really focus on the lilt of your voice, the joy you express while reading, and the sounds and rhythms made in your particular language. Turn off the phone as well. Before starting, change diapers and wrap up your baby in a warm blanket or set him in the bouncy seat. Sit close to him as you read. Take tiny baby steps with your baby and books. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, or in this instance, the first page!
Excerpted from Boosting Your Baby’s Brain Power by Holly Engel-Smothers and Susan M. Heim, to be published by Great Potential Press in Fall 2008.