Is your baby curious about his world? Does he love to grab objects and look at them with wonder? Does he feel secure when you hold him and engage him in conversation? Does he love to grab and hold a book with both his little hands? Do his eyes grow big when he looks wondrously at a book before him? If you can answer yes to any or all of these questions, then your baby secretly (only because he can't tell you) desires to read! Yes, he is still a baby, unable to talk, and barely able to hold a book steady, but he wants to experience the joy of reading and learning as he grabs that book, sits securely in your lap, and ponders all that is before him.|
Why wait? Many believe that five years old is the magic age for learning how to read; coincidently, that is the same age many enter into school. Don't wait until he is five. Teachers are fabulous, but don't rely on them to be the sole literacy provider for your child. Begin now and give your child the opportunity to grow and develop with an understanding that reading is an integral part of the world he lives in. Reading enforces old ideas, spurs on new ideas, and paves a path for unforeseen adventures. The following tips and tricks are designed to give you useful strategies for you and your baby now at twenty-nine weeks and for many years to come.
Tips and Tricks
- Read daily and often. Babies have short attention spans. Read five minutes 2-4 times a day.
- Create reading routines. Try to establish consistent times each day that are set aside for quiet reading. Bedtime and naptime lend themselves nicely to quiet reading times.
- Reread the same books over and over. Rereading books will increase your baby's understanding, memory recall, and ability to create predictions. It is just like watching a movie, listening to a song, or reading a book for the second or third time. Each time you do, you see, hear, and/or discover something new.
- Think like a teacher. Pick up a book and ask yourself how you are going to engage and teach your baby using the book's content. Can you collect other materials to use as props to help your baby make connections?
- Pick books with vibrant colors, object labels, simple pictures, and environmental print.
- Be a narrator. Point to pictures and discuss what they are, where they can be found, what noises they make, etc. Count objects on pages. Discuss relationships between characters. Ask your baby how she might feel in the character's situation. "I think you would like to go with Jack up the hill to get water; but unlike Jack I hope you don't fall down on the way back down. He hurt himself. Ouch!"
- Read nursery rhymes. Memorization is a component to pre-literacy. Hearing a nursery rhyme over and over will help your baby to later relate the tune to the song and later still, the song to the text. Create finger plays to help deepen your baby's understanding.
- Pick baby-friendly books. Choose board books, cloth books, and plastic books. Consider taking the plastic books into the bathtub. Isn't it fun to take a warm bath with a good book? Adults do it! Why not babies, too?
- Think about onions. It seems silly but yes, onions! Each time you expose your baby to literacy, you help him develop a layer of knowledge. The more exposure he has, the more layers he develops. The new information he gains today will become an old layer tomorrow. Tomorrow's layer will be the foundation for which he can make important connections. So read books that relate to things your baby is already familiar with and also that expose him to new concepts. For example, you encourage your baby to turn the pages of a book. That process created a layer which is necessary for understanding how to follow text from one page to another in the later stages of literacy.
- Follow his lead. Don't stress if he doesn't want you to finish the sentence on the page before he turns the page on you; simply amend the plot accordingly. As he gets older and his attention span grows longer, so will his ability to understand the meaning of the text and its relationship to the storyline as a whole. Let him freely explore by looking and feeling his way around the book. Even though you understand the rules of engagement when it comes to reading a book from front to back, left to right, and down each page, he only understands the book as a toy full of pictures and some random symbols. Reading often and modeling well will allow him to pick up on the flow and organization.
- Read with purpose. Read to engage and enrich your child's concept of literacy by reading out loud and with a lot of expression. Discuss the pages using complete sentences, ask your baby questions, make predictions, confirm ideas, and go back and relate ideas to other pictures or events in the book. Use puppets to illustrate and bring the book to life. Have other props on hand to help your child better understand the characteristics of an object from the story. For example, if you are reading a book about trucks and tractors, have some handy for him to hold and explore as you read and discuss the book together. Relate the book to your baby. "Look, the little girl has a green truck just like you."
- Add personal touches. Read the way you would want someone to read to you. Think of the best reader you have ever heard and then think of the worst. Then read out loud and concentrate on listening to yourself. How would you rate yourself up against your examples? Remember it is better to read monotone with a child than not to read at all, but keep in mind that as you read each day, you will begin to find your voice.
- Have fun as you read to your baby by making faces and goofy noises...your baby will love every minute of it!