Book time with babies!
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
This is what Albert Einstein, one of the most intelligent people to have lived on this earth advised parents. Words that have been endorsed by the American Academy of Paediatrics as it recently called for paediatricians to talk with all parents about reading to their children starting in infancy.
They have been asked to promote "early literacy – beginning from an infant's very first days – as an 'essential' component of primary care visits", says the National Public Radio in one of its reports. So babies (or their care givers) there might get handed books along with their immunization shots.
Research has found that early exposure to language via reading and storytelling has a great influence on a child’s development and learning throughout life.
Experts also caution against using electronic devices for this as studies find that babies need to connect emotionally with the words being spoken or they simply filter them out.
So while tapes and electronic devices can promise to make your children Einstein-like, what might really do the trick is just taking Einstein’s’ own advice and reading to your baby.
For young children, the words have to come from a real live human and what can be better than some cooing and cuddle time with your baby that equips them with lifetime skills?
So what does reading to a baby who may not understand what you are saying do?
- Listening to books helps babies develop language skills faster. While they do not understand the words, they get more familiar with the rhythm and pace of language,
- At about 2 months of age, they are ready to take turns at talking back. Try cooing to a baby and you will get back a non-sense sound in return. That is them attempting to emulate the sounds they hear. The sound of your voice encourages them to try out their own.
- As they grow older, pictures and images in books help them get familiar with objects and their meaning through repetitions. This eventually helps them develop reading skills faster.
- Reading and listening stimulates a baby’s imagination, creativity and problem solving skills.
- They begin to associate reading with being held and loved which evokes positive reactions to reading.
- There are new and exciting pictures or sounds within every book and they begin to look forward to discovering more.
Author of a new book for babies Pridhee Kapoor, who is also the mother of a toddler says that she had been reading to her baby daughter and the turning point for her was when her daughter started talking.
“After every story I read to her, a couple of days later I was hit with a mind-blowing nonsensical story with words and ideas picked from the stories that I had read. That is the magic of reading. It opens the door to a whole new world of creativity where the sun doesn’t have to be orange or the grass is not green. Reading opens your mind, builds curiosity and removes all boundaries to imagination that we as humans try to build."
A vintage poster from 1920 encouraging reading.
The guide lines for reading to a baby are very simple.
- Any book is fine. You can start even with reading out your own favourite tome or the newspaper initially. Once the baby can see and focus on pictures, use baby books with words and colours.
- Repetition is good. Babies thrive and learn from hearing the same things.
- As it is developmentally appropriate for children to mouth everything, you shouldn’t read to a baby from a valuable and rare manuscript or a dusty and dirty one.
- Colourful illustrations might help hold a child’s attention, but a very young infant cannot be expected to concentrate on the book for longer than about 90 seconds, if that. So do not get frustrated but keep at it and you will see results.
- And finally, your attitude is extremely important. The parent must not think of the book or reading as annoying. Dr. Pamela High in the Time magazine says that “It starts with the parent’s enjoyment and then becomes a shared enjoyment.”
So go on, grab a book and start reading to your baby. It will be one of the best investments you can make in their future. Bond with them over a book today.