During the early years of life, over a million new neural connections are formed every second.
Reading aloud during those years is a wonderful activity to stimulate the brain’s language center and the development of imagination and social skills.
Words widen our world
When babies reach their first birthday they will have heard all the sounds needed to speak their language. However, the more stories you read to them, the more words they will learn, the better they will talk, and make sense of the world around them. As a philosopher famously wrote, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”
The 30 million word gap
In one landmark study, researchers looked at children’s exposure to language at home. On average children from families with little attention to language were exposed to about 600 words per hour. Kids from families who paid a lot of attention and spoke to their children a lot got to about 2,000 words per hour. By the age of 3, the gap becomes 30 million words. This gap is so large, that even the best schools can’t fully make up for it, especially because the brain’s architecture is built in for the most part in the first 3 years.
It’s great for the brain and the social skills
Hearing words, especially hearing them from a parent while seeing images at the same time (for example in picture books), helps to build a rich network of words in Your Baby ’s brain. If you read to Your Baby during the little one’s early years, Your Baby will be more likely to learn, read, and speak when the right time comes. When you read, Your Baby hears you using many different emotions and expressive sounds, which fosters social and emotional development.
It promotes book lovers
Reading will woo your baby to look, point, touch, and answer questions. All these promote social development and thinking skills. Your Baby ‘s language skills improve by imitating sounds, recognizing pictures, and learning words. Making time to read to Your Baby shows that reading is a skill worth learning. The little one will begin to associate books with happiness.
What to read?
Books for babies should have simple, repetitive text and clear pictures. During the first few months of life, your child just likes to hear your voice, so you can read almost anything, especially books with a sing-song or rhyming text. As your baby gets more interested in looking at things, choose books with simple pictures against solid backgrounds.
Tips on how to read to Your Baby
The following tips can help you when you’re reading to your little one:
- Cuddle while you read to help Your Baby feel safe, warm, and connected to you
- Try to read with expression — pitch your voice higher or lower where it’s appropriate, or use different voices for different characters
- No need to follow the text exactly — stop once in a while and ask questions like “Where’s the kitty?”, or make comments like “what a cute black kitty.”
- Your Baby might not be able to respond yet, but this lays the groundwork for doing so later on.
- You may sing nursery rhymes, make funny animal sounds, or bounce Your Baby on your knee — anything that shows that reading is fun.
- Babies love and learn from repetition, so feel free to read the same books over and over.
- Center on the Developing Child - Harvard University (https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-science-of-ecd/)
- American Federation of Teachers - A Union of Professionals (http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf)
- Word Gab, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_gap)
- Reading, Kids Health (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/readi)