At the time of writing this, it is world book day and I have sent Z to nursery in the ‘Big Bad Mouse’ costume that I lovingly created for him (it was a VERY basic pattern, my sewing skills are nothing to write home about). I love the thinking behind World Book Day; to promote reading to the generations that will grow up in a world of technology and ignite a passion for reading. My family has always had a great love of books and our dining room has shelves upon shelves filled with all sorts of reading material, both fiction and non-fiction.
A love of books and reading was instilled in me from a young age, my mum was a librarian and regularly brought home books for me to tuck my nose into. I always loved going to visit the library where she worked and would happily take home a stack of books to enjoy as many times as I could before they had to be returned.
I really hope to pass on my love of reading to my son. At 2.5 years old, he has several bookshelves of his own and already has a few favourites that he goes back to again and again.
We started reading books to him virtually from birth and have continued to do this several times a day, especially before his nap and at bedtime. As soon as he could lift his head we provided books for him to look at, hold and occasionally chew, reading the words to him whilst he gazed at the pictures. During our days at home, he will sometimes toddle off to one of his bookshelves and come running back with a book in his hand saying “read it Mummy please”. I never object to this and enjoy snuggling up on the sofa spending time with one of his favourite books.
Benefits of reading to Babies and Toddlers
When started early, reading will expose your baby to the sound of your voice which helps to soothe and calm them, especially when they are fretful or restless. When you have an active toddler who is running around and exploring everything in sight, it allows a chance to sit together, slow down and reconnect. This is special time for you both to enjoy being together. This bonding time will help to create a positive association with reading which could last a lifetime
2. Promotes Listening Skills, develops attention span and improves memory
My little boy is a typical toddler who flits from one activity to another and rarely sits down for extended periods of time. One thing he will sit still for is to listen to and look at books. Having stories repeated to him has also helped to improve his retention of detail. I’m always really pleased when he finishes the end of sentences in the books he knows well and I have overheard him saying “Oh help! Oh no! Gruffalo!” when he’s looking at the book on his own.
3. Aids Language Development and Increases Vocabulary
The language used in books is more complex than the spoken word and usually adheres to grammatical principles in a way that speech does not. The written word is structured in complete sentences and a child who hears this more sophisticated form of language has an advantage over a child who hasn’t.
Studies have shown that children who are read to as newborns have a larger vocabulary than their peers. There’s also a direct link between how many words a baby hears each day in their early months and the development of their language skills as they get older.
Young children learn by repetition and will happily have the same story read to them countless times. Hearing the same words over and over will help them to learn valuable language and the correct enunciation of words.
5. Helps Young Children learn to get information from pictures
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Reading books with lots of pictures will present your little one with a wide variety of shapes, letters and colours that they will begin to recognise as the months go on. Relating the story to what is shown in the picture will help to build the association between the words and the illustrations.
We all rely on pictures for information (road signs, washing instructions, flatpack furniture directions) and looking at the pictures in books can help children to develop this association .
Whilst reading stories to Z, we ask him to find things in the pictures and try to relatewhat is shown in the pictures with the words in the story “can you see the….?” “where is the….?” “what is the …..doing there?”
6. Promotes and stimulates the imagination
There is nothing like the world you create in your head whilst reading a book. It will be different to the pictures that anybody else will imagine when reading the same book. I have lost track of the number of films I have watched that left me feeling a little disappointed because I read the book first and it didn’t match the images in my head.
Imagination produces passion and ambition in life. Without imagination we would not have today’s technology. Igniting a child’s imagination is a powerful process and could lead to them being the entrepreneurs of the future.
A picture may be worth a thousand words but the language required to create a mental image is rich and complex which not only fuels the imagination but uses language and vocabulary that pictures alone cannot.
7. Instills the Love of Books and Learning
If reading is part of your regular routine it will teach your child that it is something to be enjoyed, not just something that has to be done for school. The earlier you start, the better. This attitude to books will develop a love of reading that will take your little one through school and beyond.
Research shows that the more words a baby is exposed to, the better prepared they are to eventually start reading on their own. Skills such as knowing which way up the book goes and which way the pages turn are early life skills that become important as time goes on.
I still love to read and this is absolutely related to the fact that I was introduced to books when I was tiny.
A few of our Favourite Books for Babies
The ‘That’s Not My…’ Series – Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
A lovely series of books that stimulate babies senses with ‘touch and feel’ pictures and nice short sentences that relate to the textures on the page. There are over 40 different books in this series and I think we have at least 10 of them. It should be fairly easy to find something that works for you and your little one.
Baby Beep Beep – DK publishing
A nice simple chunky board book with easy to lift flaps showing different toy vehicles beneath. Descriptive language includes noises the vehicles make as well as what they do. Z still brings this one out regularly to be looked at and read, it is still going strong despite a bit of chewing when he was younger.
Peekaboo Zoo – Mandy Ross and Kate Merritt (also peekaboo moo, peekaboo baby)
Another firm favourite, it has short, simple rhymes that relate to bold, colourful pictures with flaps to lift and a mirror at the end so baby can see themselves in the book. This has always produced lots of giggles from Z and the flaps are still intact despite many enthusiastic openings.
Rosie’s Walk- Pat Hutchins
An absolutely delightful book. This one is definitely more about describing the lovely illustrations which are rich in detail and relating them back to what is a very simple story. Z seems to feel a little sorry for the ‘naughty fox’ who is chasing the chicken which is adorably sweet.
A few of our favourite Books for Toddlers
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
A classic story for children but one that seems to really promote language development. Z can almost quote it word for word and every walk we go on turns into a bear hunt with all of the associated sounds. This has really inspired his imagination and sometimes at home he will randomly shout ‘Agggh, bear coming! Quick upstairs!”
Anything by Julia Donaldson
This wonderful lady has revolutionised children’s books. From ‘The Gruffalo’ to ‘Rabbit’s Nap ‘ and everything in between, these stories are rich in descriptive language with simple rhymes and endearing characters. We have a pack of ten Julia Donaldson audiobooks which we keep in the car and listen to on long journeys. Z will happily look out of the window and listen attentively asking for ‘more please’ when each story finishes.
Peepo – Allen Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
Despite the stereotypical roles of the mother and father in this book, this is another one that has pictures rich in detail and lovely descriptive, rhyming language. The written words relate to finding items in the pictures which inspires little ones to look for them.
My Mum/My Dad – Anthony Browne
I started reading this one to Z when he was a newborn and I was still very hormonal. I could never read the last page without blubbing (‘My mum loves me and she always will’). This is a great one for bonding and I especially like that the roles of the mum in ‘My Mum’ are definitely NOT stereotypical
Bedtime Bear – Ian Whybrow & Axel Scheffler
This follows the adventures of a bear trying to get back to his human friend in time for bed with lots of interactive pictures and a lovely rhyming story to go with them. It is absolutely perfect for a bedtime read
Harry and The Bucketful of Dinosaurs
Z loves this one as I think he can relate to it. He adores dinosaurs and gets really involved with the story ‘Oh no! Poor Harry. Harry Sad”. It explores family relationships and the attachment of children to their toys.
Giraffe’s Can’t Dance – Giles Andrae
Poor Gerald the Giraffe is a really bad dancer until he finds the right music. The idea of the story is that everyone is different in their own way and may not be good at everything but everyone is good at something when they find what is right for them. I believe this is a good concept to be promoting to young children. We also have the ‘Giraffes can’t dance’ touch and feel book.
For more information on great books for babies and toddlers and to find some new favourites head on over to bookstart or the booktrust. We tend to buy our books from charity shops, amazon or the bookpeople