As parents, we are responsible for giving our children the best possible start on their path to literacy.
by Cassandra Dorman
One of my greatest passions as a Mom is having the privilege of being an instrumental part of my kids’ reading journey. It warms my heart to see our little ones happily curled up together, lost in a great book.
(photo by Cassandra Dorman)
How do we grow children who are passionate about reading and place value in books? It’s a journey, but I believe there are two fundamentals: 1. START YOUNG. It is incredibly important that books be an enjoyable and undeniable part of every day life from a very tender age. 2. Choose the right books. The act of reading will only reach it’s full potential when babies are given titles that engage, excite, and enlighten.
For Babies still in your belly (yes, read to your pregnant tummy!) and infants (under 3 months):
- Poetry, nursery rhymes, song books. Rhythmic poems, rhyming stories, and calming songs all help your baby feel safe, secure, entertained, and loved. Reading becomes associated with enjoyment – something we do because it makes us feel good. All of these forms of literature are fantastic for developing phonemic awareness as children grow, so they will also have a long and happy life on your family book shelves.
- Soothing, meaningful stories and night-time books. There’s nothing like a good tear-filled read of “I love you forever” or “I love you through and through”. Reading to our babies should be enjoyable, memorable, and impactful for us too. Splurge on as many feel-good story books as you can. Although infants may not understand the words in a literal sense, I believe messages of unconditional, pure love, transcend all barriers and go straight for the heart. Those tender moments are a gift both to you AND your baby – so grab hold.
- Continue reading the above mentioned books!
- Cot (cloth) books. Cloth books are fabulous for helping babies develop a love for touching the books they read. (As adults, we are extremely drawn to books that ‘feel’ good to us, as it’s a big part of our reading experience). They are great first readers and help introduce the basics of books (ie: they have a front/back, pages, and are read from left to right by turning pages) to young babies. These books are also great for tummy time and as easy take-along books for hanging up in the car, etc. Choosing ones with bright, bold patterns in black, white, and red will also be engaging for baby’s developing eyes.
- Bath books. Bath books are the cushioned, plastic (non-toxic) covered books. They can be chewed up, drooled on, made dirty with food, and thrown at the cat with no damage done. Just toss it in some soapy water and it’s like new. We didn’t use ours in the bath – we introduced them at meal times and when our little ones were teething, drooling, and just plain messy. This is such a great way to infuse books into everyday life (ie: keeping a baby busy in their highchair at dinner).
- Rhythmic tactile books. Touchy-feely books help develop sensory awareness and give lots of opportunity for talking about what you’re reading (“Oh, see how soft the bear is, feel the bear’s ears…”). Also, young babies are incredibly drawn to and learn primarily through touch, so combining words with tactile stimulus is a fantastic way to mix enjoyment with brain development.
- Look and Say Books. Books that show illustrations/photos of different objects with their given name printed below or beside are very simple but highly effective for developing vocabulary and a better understanding of the world around us. Particularly fun are books that list words with illustrations on one side of the page and then hide (easily) those same illustrations and words on the other side within a larger illustration. This allows the adult to say things like, “Oh! Look at the pretty rainbow over there. Can you find the rainbow in the picture of the park? ….. YES! Great job, that’s it!”. This style of book is also a good tool if you are introducing sign language to your baby as it is easy to pin-point each given word and it’s corresponding image.
Reading to our babies is a privilege and joy, so above all else, have fun delving into all kinds of great books with your littles ones. Snuggle up under a blanket, hold them in your arms and enjoy establishing reading time as a pleasurable, happy, and magical part of your young child’s life.
Cassandra Dorman is a home-educating Mom of three young children. She’s also a writer, speaker, and promotes literacy as a Team Leader/Educational Specialist