Motherhood is a beautiful experience. Besides the hurdles of the first months after delivery and the once in a while pitfalls of parenting, the experience is worthwhile altogether. Rarely will you find a woman who regrets being a mother. One of the joys of motherhood is bonding with your child. Though you may be a working mom and fail to find time to spend with your baby, there are plenty of opportunities to bond with them. One of the ways is reading with your child. The warm cuddle, the turning of the pages of a book are all a perfect setting to bond with your baby. It is a safe and comfortable space where you can soothe your child with the sound of your voice. Such stimulation will eventually help enhance their understanding of their surrounds. You might not be aware but words have the power to ignite such great imagination.
A little baby does not understand the contents of the stories but the play or repetition and the rhythm of rhymes will become an integral part of their childhood. Your voice intonations as you read away beautiful stories to them is an important way for them to begin to understand how to shape words in response. At the early stages of childhood, the best books for learning are those with bright colors and simple shapes. Your baby will learn to focus his eyes and engage with the book. It is also good to have books of different textures so that their small hands can touch and begin to feel the environment surrounding them. Such experiences stimulate their tiny mind.
When to start
You can start reading with your baby as early as six months. Start with soft books since they are great tools to encourage her to reach out and discover more. It is especially important to set up a special place where you can both retreat and share the lovely adventure. Build a whole ritual around this. This place should be comfortable and away from distractions like the television or radio.
Always read slowly and carefully so that they can concentrate on the words. Allow them to turn the pages and frequently stop to ask them questions. Pause to allow them to learn that you are listening to their responses.
Another technique is to name new and familiar objects which will allow them to build their memory and vocabulary.
As you start out in reading to your child, start out with reading for a few minutes at a time and then extend the time as your child grows older and has a longer attention span.
By the first year, stories can become more active. You can invite your child to participate by making sounds of trains or animals featured as characters. At this age, your child probably has a favorite book that they reach out for. This is a good indication that they treasure the moments they have spent with you and that they find comfort in your shared experience. Continue building this collection of loved stories together.
The reading progression by age
Reading is not about waiting until your child can talk. You can start reading to your child even from early infancy. It is then that they begin to recognize sounds and rhythms. It has been proven that children who were routinely read to from a young age were able to develop improved language skills and increased interest in reading. This is great in helping them prepare for preschool and kindergarten.
At every age, children are interest at different types of books. Even their development, temperament and life experiences play a role. Generally, babies want books they can touch and those with interesting things they can look or stare at. They also like books that make noises and have fold-out sections which they can lift to reveal hidden surprises.
Preschoolers prefer books with more elaborate pictures, rhymes, funny words and captivating stories.
Books that talk about animals, trucks, princesses or children are the most thrilling for children. You can try out different books and see which one your child enjoys.
Reading tips per age
When you are reading to a child below a year:
- Hold them close and read, talk or sing to them
- Choose books with interesting pictures and textures for 3-6 month old babies because by then they will begin to enjoy looking at shapes and colors
- At age 6-12 months, sit them on your lap. Go through the photos together. Allow them to touch the books.
When you are reading to 1 and 2 year olds:
- Allow your baby to choose the book, hold it and turn the pages. Follow the interest your child has as long as the book holds his attention.
- Have a conversation with him as you ask questions and pause for replies
- By 18-24 months, your baby will begin to name familiar pictures and fill in words in familiar stories.
When reading to 2 -3 year olds:
- Your baby is able to handle books with paper pages and understands the progression of the pictures. You might have to read one book over and over again.
For children who are three years and above
- Your child can now listen to longer stories, turn pages and retell the stories in his own words. He now has better understanding of letters and picture. Look for books with lessons on how to make friends, go to school and other helpful lessons.
As you read, it is time to bring out your ‘cheeky’ self by being playful. Make sounds where you need to and make it a fun time. Act out the characters where you can to make the stories come alive. Use different voices for different characters. Your baby is going to enjoy it.
Make reading with your baby a ritual and build it into your daily exchange. It is the joy of this shared experience that will help you foster a lifelong love for books in your children.