Encouraging early reading…(REALLY early)

Encouraging early reading is a topic that is close to my heart. Years of teaching experience has taught me, it is unequivocally clear that…

Children who are exposed to a wide range of books, have a wider range of vocabulary.

But when should that love of books begin? What if I told you that your baby is learning from you right from birth! Developing language begins from a very early age. Even reciprocal, non-verbal cues such as eye contact, is the beginnings of communication, social, emotional and intellectual development. When babies babble and gaggle, they are using their speech to communicate with you. Respond to them, gaggle and babble with them, no matter how silly you think you may sound. This reciprocal ‘gaggling’ is supporting their language development.

Research also shows that children who are spoken to, and read widely to, access a vast range of vocabulary.

Don’t have access to many books at home? Don’t worry!

You can just talk to them about your day. When you are making a cup of tea, talk to them, tell them what you are doing. Narrate your actions and describe what you can see.

Here are some other ways that you can support your child’s language development:

  • Sing nursery rhymes and songs
  • Use actions with words, for example waving ‘hello’
  • Point to, name and describe things that you see
  • Make a range of sounds using your voice, musical instruments, or just pots and pans in the kitchen!
  • Enjoy one-to-one time with your baby, encourage their eye contact and imitate their expressions and sounds
  • Visit local libraries, they often stock a range of children’s books, as well as story and/or song time sessions too!

Now I’m going to add a caveat to the above advice, children are ALL different and all learn at different ages and stages.

Many children (including my own) take a little longer to verbalise. This doesn’t mean that they won’t. Many children take their time, to take it all in. There’s a lot to learn in the world around them, so don’t feel pressured if they aren’t hitting those milestones just yet. If you are worried or concerned about your child’s development, please speak to your health visitor and/or a childcare professional if your little one attends a nursery or child minder.

To finish off our blog today, here’s a list of five great books for babies, all different, all special in their own way. I have also added in some top tips to help encourage reading too!

‘Faces’ by Baby Touch

Any of these type of books are great for babies, as the high contrast colours and simple designs help to engage their interest and develop their eyesight. This one also has a mirror at the back, which my son used to kiss every time he saw his reflection!

Top tip: Try to find books with simple but engaging illustrations, let your child look at the pictures with you and point to them as you say each word. Let them see your mouth as you say each word, it’s just as important for your children to see you reading as well as hear you reading.

‘Peepo’ by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

This book is an oldy but a goody! It has excellent repetition and rhyme which is amazing for children’s language development. It’s been so well used in my house that the pages are starting to fall apart! I used to read it to my little one every night before bed and I learnt it off by heart, we still now go around daily saying ‘PEEPO’!

Top tip: Any book with rhyme and repetition is fantastic for your child’s language development. As they get used to the books, try missing out key words as you are reading to see if they join in! They don’t need to pronounce the words correctly either, just having a go is great!

‘Busy Farm’ by Campbell

Any of these ‘push, pull, slide’ books are great for toddlers! The moving parts engage their interest and keep them entertained whilst reading. I highly recommend any books with interactive elements for toddlers, perfect to spark their love of books at an early age!

Top tip: When reading with your little one, try adding in songs and rhymes! As this book is about farm animals, you could add in a rendition of ‘Old McDonald’ too! Or if you’re going to the farm, take the book with you! This helps to link their experiences and make connections in their brain.

‘Where’s Mr Lion’ by Nosy Crow

I have spoken about these books in my top five gifts for babies too! Again, I love the interactive element of pulling the flaps down to find the hidden creatures. But these are even better as the flaps are made of felt, so they don’t rip! Perfect for little hands.

Top tip: Have your books accessible to your children at all times. A little book shelf, book box or basket at your child’s level is a great way to encourage your child to pick up a book whenever they feel like it. Giving your child the freedom to explore books, turn the pages and handle them in a positive way will really help to encourage their enjoyment of books.

‘The Wonky Donkey’ by Craig Smith

I confess this isn’t one of my son’s favourites, but as soon as I read it I loved it! I wonder if a book like this is even allowed on the market…it’s not very PC…but it’s quite funny nonetheless!

Top tip: Let your children see how much you enjoy books too. Even if you’re not much of a reader yourself, when you come across a children’s book you enjoy, share it with them. Let them see your excitement when you open it up!