“Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your baby, not because it’s the right thing to do.” Mem Fox
My Teeny Tiny really isn’t interested in books and reading– they don’t pay any attention to the book. They just keep staring at me not the book, why should I bother ?
You are right your baby loves your face, the images in the book may be of no interest at all for them for some time. So why don’t I just talk to my baby instead?
Yes please talk to your baby – narrate everyday experiences – this may get quite repetitive and instructional, it tends to go something like this
“Why are you awake?” or “What’s wrong? perhaps “You need your nappy changed” some day “It’s time for your bath” and occasionally “Where’s Dad ?”
Sound familiar ?- not what we would call nutritious language. In fact we use a very small number of words when we narrate everyday experiences so let’s expand on that by offering rich language experiences. Books open a whole new world of nutritious language – how often in everyday conversation would you use the words, squelch, stumble or splosh – the classic book - We’re Going on a Bear Hunt offers these delicious words.
Try sitting in a triangle position when you are reading –(they are nestled in the crook of your arm) where you can see your baby’s face, they can see your face and you can both see the book.
A couple reasons why this works –
· Your Teeny Tiny will study the shape your mouth is making so make it visible to them - kanohi ki te konohi - face to face interaction –a human baby brain is designed to seek this
· You can see what your Teeny Tiny is looking at when their gaze does go to the book – then start talking about that image
· It’s all about connection and attachment, foster positive social interaction and so many sensory messages are being received and given during a book sharing experience, touch, sight, smell and sound are all engaged being next to you. ( It won’t be long and taste will also be welcomed – board books recommended for this stage)
“The ideal three stories a day are one favourite, one familiar, and one new, but the same book three times is also fine.” Mem Fox
The same book three times might become a little onerous - especially for you. The favourite, familiar and new suggestions I tend to recommend over 12m.
For the first year you could go with the one with repetitive text
One that focuses on rhythm and rhyme
and the third perhaps something interactive.
Lots of these books cover all three of these in one. Boom sorted !
So bedtime, morning time, lunch time when is the best time to read?
Choose a time when baby is happy and alert, this can be tricky with a newborn – so don’t worry if you pick the wrong time try again tomorrow. I find the mornings are often best, when they are alert and engaged.
Yes, bed time or before nap time is great too, but wait until I’m a little older for this as you want a time when I will absorb the most information – like a little sponge.
Choose books you enjoy – this is key – find books you loved as a child, you will give them life, you will use intonation, expression and your baby will love this. If you find you are reading like a robot time to move on find another book.
So are all books created equal ? Isn’t any book a good book?
Short answer, well not really.
Jim Trelease once said “If you can’t fit your children into the same underwear don’t try and fit them into the same book.”
So reading aloud the latest John Grisham to your baby, yes you are most likely using nutritious language – it may not however be developmentally appropriate – don’t stop, go for it, as this is still beneficial but perhaps this shared reading experience is supplementary to other developmentally appropriate shared reading experiences.
Final note - It is a very adult thing to want to read every word on every page.
When you read to your Teeny Tiny, don’t worry about finishing the book or even turning pages in the right direction. Just enjoy engaging with the book and read as much as your baby will let you.
The Research Bit
“Parent-child shared reading is known to have positive effects on children’s vocabulary development, acquisition of written language and emergent literacy. Children’s vocabulary learning is the most well-documented benefit of parent-child shared reading of print books.”
International Journal of Educational Research Volume 105, 2021, 101710
Mem Fox Reading Magic 2001
Jim Trelease The Read Aloud Handbook 2019