It's never too early to start reading to your bub. No idea where to start? Read on.
WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS
Reading and singing nursery rhymes and songs to your child is the perfect start to developing her own storytelling skills, which will, in turn, enable your little one to express herself.
The Right Time to Start
The key point is not to rush your child. Instead, introduce reading as part of your child’s activities and in a fun and interesting manner, explains Daniel Koh, psychologist, Insights Mind Centre. Before the age of six months, the brain’s neural development has not matured to learn and associate sounds and letters. Although, some children may learn to read at an early age, explains Koh, not all children are the same. Reading to newborns, even though they will not understand what you are saying, does stimulate their interest in sounds, the back and forth of conversation and listening skills. As much as sleeping, eating and bathing can become a part of the daily routine from the first few weeks of life so can sitting together and reading aloud.
Do not underestimate your baby. She is capable of distinguishing your voice from other sounds, even in your womb. After birth, your baby hears sounds more clearly and is ready to learn speech patterns. Reading to your baby right from the beginning will stimulate an interest in sounds and help lay the groundwork for language acquisition, no matter what your infant’s age is, explainsDr Evelyn Law, consultant, Child Development Unit, National University Hospital.
Research suggests that babies can see colours
and are stimulated visually from five months of age.
For children from six months, introduce simple picture books,
with colours and patterns.
Reaping the Benefits
Studies show that children who routinely read from a young age, emphasises Dr Law, develop improved language skills and increased interest in reading, which are important for future school readiness. Although a younger child may not respond and learn the word, they are able to focus and this helps the child to develop an interest in reading. Listening to the sound can help fine-tune learning of sounds and associating the sound with letters and later words.
Apart from that, your baby gets to hear many different expressive sounds and emotions. It invites your baby to point, touch, look and begin to express themselves. It gives babies information about the world around them, all from the safety of your lap. It builds listening skills, increases memory and exposes them to a rich and varied vocabulary.
Bonding over Books
One of the most important things about reading aloud to your baby is the close bond it creates. These close attachments are so important because children with secure attachments learn that their world is a safe place because the people in it are caring, explains Fiona Walker, CEO and principal of schools, Julia Gabriel Education. By creating a routine where you spend time together reading a book, cuddled up, they learn that close relationships feel good.
Reading together is a great way to establish a strong and nurturing parent and child bond.
When you hold your baby close and look at a book together,
your baby will enjoy snuggling and listening to your voice as well as the story.
Feeling safe and secure with you while looking at a book builds
your baby's confidence and love for reading.
What’s on the Bookshelf?
Books with large and colourful pictures will grab their attention. Hold the book so that the pictures can be seen, says Dr Imelda Ereno, senior resident physician, Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Singapore General Hospital, and point to the pictures on the page. As the child learns to speak, start reading the stories. Take time to look at the pictures together. Stop reading the story if your child wants to talk about the picture, explains Dr Ereno. You may be surprised at the creativity and intelligence of some of your child's ideas.
When your child is able to take care of a book, get some books she will enjoy. According to Dr Ereno, owning books is as important as owning toys. Some good books can be bought inexpensively at bookstores or rummage sales. Take your child to the library as soon as the child can sit still for the toddler story time. There are teams of children's librarians and specialists at all Regional Libraries whom can offer advice on the selection of suitable reading materials and resources for children aged zero to 12, advises Dr Ereno.
Time it Right
The best time to read to your baby is perhaps before naptime and bedtime. In addition to the pleasure that cuddling your baby before bed gives both of you, you'll also be making life easier by establishing a routine, explains Dr Ratna Sridjaja, paediatrician, SBCC Baby & Child Clinic, Gleneagles Hospital. This will help to calm your baby and set expectations about when it's time to sleep.
It's also good to read at other points in the day, emphasises Dr Ratna. Choose times when your baby is dry, fed, and alert. Books also come in handy when you're stuck waiting, so have some in the diaper bag to fill time sitting at the doctor's office or standing in line at the grocery store.
Read aloud for a few minutes at a time, explains Dr Ratna, but do it often. You don’t need to finish the entire story if your baby loses interest just focus on pages that you and your baby enjoy.
Caring for a baby comes with many other responsibilities. Reading should never be a chore for any parent. Just taking a few minutes here and there to read aloud to your child can make a difference.