Thursday, 23 May 2013

Why You Should Read Real Books to Babies


When my daughter was born we were treated to two great big bags of books.

One was a set of 10 Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd and the other included Julia Donaldson's Room on the Broom.

These were new to me and I thought, from the look of them, they were books to save for later.

But my aunt and my mum-of-three friend who bought them assured me, we could start reading them almost straight away.

To my great surprise they were right!

From the early months, we read stories as part of a bedtime routine and right from the start my daughter was absorbed and entertained by Hairy Maclary and Room on the Broom.

Obviously, I am not suggesting that she "understood" at that age but she definitely enjoyed them - she would focus, listen and smile - which certainly wasn't true until much later for a lot of other books she was bought that seemed to be of a similar complexity.

So what's the secret of Lynley Dodd and Julia Donaldson that makes them so accessible to even young babies? Well I think it's very simple - totally brilliant rhythm and rhyme.

Babies and toddlers just seem to have an instinctive sense and enjoyment of both - which is why they love nursery rhymes - and this sense gives them access to stories that their language skills on their own can't.

This early access is incredibly valuable because it exposes babies and toddlers to a gloriously rich vocabulary at a time that they are hard wired to absorb and explore language.

In turn, it exposes them to the pure joy of language. Both Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd - the author of Hairy Maclary - delight in English and make use of all sorts of wonderful and unusual words that young children wouldn't be exposed to in their everyday lives.

Both sets of books do have lovely illustrations but from my experience, babies and toddlers will delight in these books even without the pictures. This in itself is of great value because it builds strong aural skills that children really need in their later development.

As an an adult, it is a complete pleasure to read about the antics of Hairy Maclary and his friends - such as Zacchary Quack  and Slinki Malinki - or the latest fabulous creations of Julia Donaldson's imagination - Sharing a Shell,  What the Ladybug Heard and Monkey Puzzle were just a few of our early faves - and this  pleasure shines through when you're telling the stories.

There really is no better way to sell to children the pleasure of reading, than for them to see us enjoying their books!

Of course, I am not suggesting these are the only types of books of babies should have. We loved very tactile books such as the That's Not My series and lift the flap classics such as Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo. And my daughter adored Emily Gravett's very simple jiving rhyme Monkey and Me so much that some of her first words - recited on loop in perfect rhythm - were "Minkey an Me, Minkey an Me".

But if we stick to very simple tactile and visual books, we are denying our children access to the wonders of language that authors such as Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd have, through their mastery of rhythm and rhyme, opened up to even the youngest child.









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15 comments:

  1. I am very much in the camp as well of reading to your kids even if they can't understand what you are talking to. I don't like opening up a book and just pointing at pictures but I love reading the story and letting the kids glean understanding from what I am reading and the pictures.

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  2. I totally agree, and if I like the story and the book I am more likely to read to my chldren too x

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    1. I have to confess to occasionally hiding books that I really can't stand - Alice x

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  3. My 4 year old's favorite author is Ronald Dohl. He especially loves (and has requested to have read to him at least two dozen times) George's Marvelous Medicine. BFG is also fun for the made-up words.
    We started off reading him "real" books as a infant and now when people ask how he got to have such a great vocabulary, I always just credit it to having been read to his whole life.
    Great post, completely agree!

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    1. Totally with you on Roald Dahl - Fantastic Mr Fox got us started with chapter books (and like wise was then read repeatedly!). He's another author who just loves words!

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  4. Amen! My little guy LOVES Eric Rohmann. My Friend Rabbit was one of the first he started to "read" to us.

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  5. Great helpful tips for moms looking for ways to encourage early reading! Featuring this post at Family Fun Friday!
    Monica
    http://happyandblessedhome.com

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    1. Thank you so much for the feature Monica - that's wonderful.

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  6. I could not agree more with babies instinctive love of rhythm and rhyme. I find it very interesting that it seems hard wired in us. I often wonder why...

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    1. It's curious isn't it ... but just so strong.

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  7. Oh, we love Julia Donaldson here as well. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

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  8. featured you this week on the kids co-op :-)
    http://frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtails-jaime.blogspot.com/2013/05/babytoddler-play-post-featured-this.html

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    1. That's great - thanks so much, Alice x

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  9. Thanks so much for linking up at Stress-Free Sunday last weekend! I love the message this post imparts -- language is so important to kiddos way before they even start talking. Just think of all the words they'll be exposed to as infants!!

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  10. I agree! Thanks for sharing at The Children's Bookshelf, I hope you join us again when we return in September.

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