Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Encouraging Your Baby to Read

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

Almost all parents, whether bookworms or infrequent readers, intend to foster the love for reading in their children. They know that it brings about benefits in their little ones' development and that it is best to ignite that passion for reading during babyhood.

Yet a few parents may know the full benefit of this noble activity. Still, even fewer may know how to maximize reading to their babies. However, whether you have started reading to your baby, or have yet to experience this activity with her, you may learn more from the benefits listed below and the suggestions included in maximizing book reading with your little one.

Benefits of reading to babies

Besides the advantage of developing in your child a love for reading, here are other amazing benefits of reading to your offspring while he is still a baby:

Books as brain sowers. Scientific studies have proven that new things experienced or encountered by your baby bring about the growth of new brain cell connections. This means that for every line you read to your baby, for each word you utter or rhythmic sound she hears, one or two brain cell connections are formed. Thus, if you read the same book to her, the brain cell connections that have previously grown will be fortified.

All ears. Reading to your baby trains him to pay attention to what you are saying. This is a good foundation for your baby to learn the best skill in becoming a good conversationalist: listening. Moreover, it better teaches him the skill of paying attention to certain things as he grows up, making it easier for you to develop patience in him gradually.

An eye for an eye, a book for a book. As you read, you may be pointing to some pictures or particular colors on the pages. This is a great way to develop not only your baby's attention, but also her eye muscles. So next time you read a book to your baby, take time to point at shapes, colors or pictures to help her better use her eye muscles.

Comfort activity. If you read to your baby in a soothing tone, your baby tends to associate your voice with calmness or warmth. The same is true if you read in an enthusiastic way to him, he gets an idea that your voice can bring much joy to him, thus making him consider your voice as a positive part of his life.

Succumbing to books. Make sure you not just read to your baby while she's lying in her crib. Make that effort to hold her while reading to her a good book. Since your baby feels comfort and security while you hold her and read a book to her, you may not realize it but your baby grows to make a connection between reading and being held. This then makes her look forward to reading since she considers it as a comforting activity.

Echoing everything. Babies are very fond of imitating sounds. Besides the usual sounds he hears around him, like the hum of the electric fan, the sound of your steps or the very words you utter, it would be great if he could imitate certain words which you read straight from a book. Of course you cannot expect your 5-month old baby to immediately echo the sounds you read, but after a while you'll be surprised to hear him finally grasping the words and uttering them himself.

Language teacher. Reading is all the more important for your baby if you want her to learn more than one language. Exposing her as early as babyhood to books which use the particular languages you intend for her to acquire, will make her language acquisition a more meaningful and fun experience. She gets to learn them the unconventional way, not just through translating separate unrelated words or facing grammar books, but instead through rhythmic sounds, unique combination of words and colorful pictures found in her baby book.

Romancing language. Without you realizing it, through hearing you read stories or even simple lines to him, your baby gradually acquires the love for the language. With the sounds of rhythm, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, and other fun sounds in language, he gets to enjoy words and the very language itself.

School whiz. Research shows that children who are exposed to language at an earlier age tend to do better in their studies. Of course it is best to start during babyhood. When you have started a routine with your baby before she becomes an impatient toddler who cannot even sit down with you, you'll be surprised that she picks up her book voluntarily and insists that you read to her.

Maximizing the benefits of baby book reading

Handy for baby. Instead of keeping your baby's book tucked in some closet or shelf, it may be a good idea to place it among his toys. This way, he is likely to develop interest for his book the way he has grown to like his toys. Making books accessible to him is the key to making books become a great part of his babyhood.

Also, some parents I know consider placing their baby's books all over the house. They make sure they have some books in the baby's room, living room, dining room, bathroom, and all other parts of the house where they bring their baby. You may consider doing the same since you never know when your baby is in the mood for reading. After all, her undivided attention is a precious gift in reading sessions.

This is even helpful for you when you have to perform a task on your baby and you need him to become absorbed over something else. For instance, giving your baby a bath may be daunting, yet you may get the help of soft plastic books in the tub instead of some toys. This way, bathing your baby becomes an easy task plus he becomes even more interested in books since he gets to encounter them almost everywhere.

Book bonding. While you can always let your baby chew on books or play with them on her own, still, there is nothing like the bonding time you can spend with her each day as you read to her a book. If possible, choose a place in the house where the only sound she hears is your voice. Hold your baby and as you read to her, make sure that she has your undivided attention. The important thing here is to let your baby feel that you're with her as she explores a book; and she has your focus each and every time you have a reading session.

Beyond the written word. You don't have to stop at what is written on every page of your baby's book. You may spend time talking about the pictures before turning the page. You may do this by asking him questions or relating the pictures to what is around him.

Discuss with her the story thoroughly as if you are talking to someone who can understand every word you say. This way, reading becomes more than a routine where you read word for word to your baby. This is also an excellent way to stimulate greater interest in your baby.

Picture is the mother of invention. There are available baby books where no words are present and only pictures are shown. You may connect a picture to another by inventing your own story to create greater meaning in the pictures. You may also do this with books which already have words in them. This way, book reading becomes a fun and learning routine for both you and your baby. While she learns by listening, looking and touching, you get to learn, too, by enhancing your storytelling skills.

100% Entertainment. Be more than a Mother Goose to your baby. Try to be entertaining by changing your voice for different book characters. You may also couple your otherworldly voices with funny facial expressions to make your baby smile or laugh.

Try also doing several gestures to emphasize verbs in the book or imitate animals present in it. Clap your hands, stamp your feet or whistle a tune to make things more enjoyable. You may also play with your baby's feet or hands when reading onomatopoeia such as "boom, splash, blag, kaboom". This not only adds fun to your book reading, but also lets your baby appreciate non-verbal communication.

Book boundaries. Don't be too pushing when reading to your baby. You may find that instead of letting you finish reading a page, he would turn the pages and skip on some of them. This is just natural. You may pick another book if he wants another one or stop the reading session if he loses the mood.

Remember to start only reading when your baby's comfortable, meaning she's in a comfy position and is not hungry or tired. Just keep sessions short every day. Like exercise, it's better to spend a few minutes every day reading a book to your baby than reading for a great period of time for a few days every week.

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