One of the most famously intelligent men said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales" (Albert Einstein).
He was right!
There is a wealth of research saying that sharing books with your baby will increase the number of words they know by 2 years old and give them an advantage when they start school. It is suggested that 3-4 months old is a good time to start sharing books*.
I know what you’re thinking, “My baby just chews books”.
They probably do, until around 9 months old babies don’t really see a difference between 2D pictures and 3D objects and so they explore them in the same way – they put everything in their mouths. But by 4 months, babies’ vision and basic ability to reach for objects is developed enough to engage with them. They focus in on individual pictures within a scene. Then by 8-9 months babies can use books to learn new words.
BUT “My toddler doesn’t sit still long enough”.
The best way to share books with your child is to follow their lead and interests (or lack of it). Share books with “fun” sound buttons, flaps to lift or textures to feel and books with topics you know your child likes e.g. a favourite TV character. You don’t have to read ‘by the book’, instead respond to what your child is looking at and talking about, add to what they are saying by telling them a bit more about it. You don’t have to read the whole book, know when to give up, trying to force the issue will only make your child even less interested!
“Again, again!” says your pre-schooler as you internally roll your eyes, sigh deeply and prepare to sound enthusiastic about the same book for the tenth time today.
Children gain a lot from sharing the same book multiple times. Very young children benefit from hearing the same words again and again, it’s how they learn and remember them. Also, if you are responsive to your child, you’re likely to ‘read’ the book differently every time and so it will vary. Then, as children get older, they are more able to learn about the characters and follow the story, when they hear the story a few more times their focus can change from the overall plot to new words. Having said that, variety is the spice of life and no bad thing, if you want to show children that girls don’t just have to wait for the prince to show up, then a range of books with girls doing different things is important.
Regularly sharing books can support visual development, social interaction and language development:
Children learn that 2D pictures are not really objects, they represent objects, just like the spoken and written word represent things
Switching attention between a book and the speaker aids development
It increases the adult-child bond
Books highlight patterns in language, especially through repetitive and rhyming books
Children can experience things they are not able to in real life
Children learn new words
So books hold a great deal of power for helping children to learn to talk and of course, to read and write. Sensory stories from Find Your Voice Speech and Language Therapy bring books to life with interactive and multi-sensory story telling to enrich early experiences with books.