Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Early Literacy Tip: Babies need to hold, touch and chew on books!

In this morning’s Nursery Rhyme Time program, we shared an early literacy tip about letting your baby play with books.

Let your child play with books! One of the first literacy skills young children need to learn is understanding what a book is. They learn this by touching books, opening and closing them, turning pages, and putting them in their mouths. Even building towers out of books or spreading them across the floor helps babies learn this very early, but important, concept. Don’t feel pressure to read through books word-for-word. Physically playing with books is important – don’t rush through this fun stage!

One of the most important early literacy skills a child can learn is the enjoyment of reading, formally called Print Motivation. This comes from warm, positive experiences with books and reading. When babies are young, this includes physically playing with books. For infants, the mouth is the most highly developed avenue for learning about the world. That’s why babies put everything in their mouths. This needs to include books. Babies need to touch, feel, and of course, chew on books.

When you’re reading with your infant, it is not very important to read each word of a story. While language is important, at this age any talking or singing you do will be beneficial. When it comes to physical books, the important thing is to have incredibly positive experiences with these objects. Yanking a book away when they put it in their mouths or forcing them to turn pages when they don’t want to yet isn’t necessary. Sure it makes it easier to read the book, but it’s more fun for the baby to play with the book as they see fit.

So how do we share a book with them? Instead of focusing on the words, point at pictures and talk about the illustrations. Ask them questions (even though they’re too young to answer). Don’t be afraid of wordless picture books – these encourage even more parent/child/book interaction!

If you really want to read all the words, try giving them their own book to hold and play with while you read from another one. That way baby’s hands (and mouth) can physically explore the book, and baby’s brain simultaneously benefits linguistically from hearing you read.

Looking for more info? Check out these helpful websites!

Better Beginnings, from the State Library of Western Australia
Reading Rockets, from the U.S. Department of Education
Zero to Three, from the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families

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