Babies Need Books
- by Elizabeth Montgomery
It is never too early to introduce your child to books. Although infants will be unable to follow a plot or understand a theme, infants will benefit from exposure to books. In addition to the bonding that is inevitable when you hold your baby in your lap and communicate with her, reading to your baby is valuable in the development of language skills. Long before your baby utters her first word, she is absorbing sounds that will first help contribute to the development of speech, and later reading. Books also stimulate your baby’s imagination, helping her to make sense of situations she has experienced and introducing her to new ones.
Reading to your infant today promotes good reading habits tomorrow. There is a difference in the attention spans of children who have been read to regularly, says Bernice Cullinan, Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at New York University and a highly acclaimed reading specialist. Dr. Cullinan is the author of Read to Me: Raising Kids Who Love to Read and Invitation to Read.
As infants are particularly responsive to the sounds of language, the best books for babies emphasize rhythm, melody, and repetition, such as nursery rhymes and books with patterned language. Rhythm, rhyme, repetition and familiar language sequences will captivate babies. Books for infants usually have minimal text; the words often function like labels or captions for the pictures. Infants enjoy looking at pictures of other people, especially other babies. They recognize facial features and expressions. Babies and small children love seeing familiar objects like a stuffed bear or a rubber duck, or people doing things that they have had some experience with in their daily experience, such as getting dressed or taking bath.
Infants see books as toys. They will explore books the same way they explore everything else in their worlds: by grabbing, tossing, turning them upside down and putting the books in their mouths. For these reasons, small durable board books, designed for small fingers and to endure harsh treatment by babies, are the most appropriate for young book lovers. The following board books should encourage your budding bookworm:
Books are not just educational and developmental devices. Babies, like adults, are entertained by books. Parents and other caregivers find that books are a very effective way to keep babies entertained. Indeed, early enjoyment of books will help form a foundation for the vital role books will play in your child’s formal education.