by Amanda Hill
As I prepare for the birth of my third child, I find myself remembering the experiences I had with my first two. When my daughter was born in Nebraska, the hospital sent her home with a board book and a promise of another free board book if I got her a library card.
A baby with a library card? It seemed ridiculous to me as well until I found out the benefits of a children’s card at our local library. No late fees or lost fines on all children’s books! It was a perk I took for granted until just last week when I paid more than fifty dollars in library fines. Yes, you read that right. Fifty dollars. I’m trying to look on the bright side. At least my kids love books so much that they lose them under their bed for months on end. That’s what I’m going with.
But that memory got me thinking. Are there any real benefits to shared reading with infants? Research says yes!
According to a study by Karras & Braungart-Rieker (2005), reading to a child as young as eight months old is linked to better language abilities at twelve and sixteen months. The study also looked at the effect of reading with children as young as four months. At this age, reading didn’t correspond with improved language, but it was linked to parent and child continuing to read at eight months. You can find the brief for this research at http://www.cfs.purdue.edu/ITSI/docs/briefs/EffectsOfSharedParent.pdf
The study does not have the answer as to why reading at this age is better for language development, but it is not hard to come up with some common sense answers. Reading introduces children to new vocabulary. It is an opportunity for parents to communicate with their children and demonstrate language.
The study emphasizes shared reading experiences, where the child is actively engaged in the process. Unfortunately, this means all those times I read Pride and Prejudice aloud while nursing didn’t do much good. Although, as neither of my kids has ever began a sentence with “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” I probably didn’t need a study to tell me that.
There are a lot of books out there for children this age. You can go for the straight vocabulary books like Baby’s First 100 Words or some of the classics like Where’s Spot?
My personal favorite books to read to babies (and I believe they are my babies’ favorite books as well) are the Babyfaces books by Roberta Grobel Intrater from Cartwheel. Titles in the series include Peek-a-Boo!, Smile!, Eat!, Sleep, Splash!, and Hugs & Kisses. The book is a short poem, illustrated by close-up photographs of babies. Babies love looking at other babies and I think that is what made these such a hit in my house.
Do you have fond memories of reading to your babies? What were some of your favorite books?
Amanda Hill grew up in the mountain desert of southwestern Wyoming. The library was right outside her back gate and so it was easy to fulfill her love of reading. After high school, she attended Brigham Young University, where she graduated with a BA in Chemistry. After having two children and living all over the country, she now resides in central California. Amanda loves to read, write, crochet, sew, garden, play the piano, go camping, and spend all day with her beautiful kids.