Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reading to children

When I was working in public libraries, particularly when I was lucky enough to conduct story time, I was often asked by parents, at what age should you start reading to children? My answer is, from the beginning. I followed my own advice and read to my son on the day I brought him home from the hospital. Beforehand I thought about what I would read. I couldn't see myself reading basic board books to him that showed shapes or letters of the alphabet or colours. I ended up deciding on the Mr Men series.
This was for three reasons. Firstly, they were small enough to hold together with a baby very comfortably. Secondly, the pictures were bright and colourful, therefore eyecatching. And thirdly, there was enough text for me to find reading these books enjoyable and it allowed for my son to listen to my voice. This is what I want to stress here to any parents reading this post. Reading to babies isn't about 'reading' to them. It is allowing for your child to listen to your voice. A baby residing in your tummy can hear at the twenty week mark. This means that he or she has been listening to your voice (and others) for a long time. There's a sense of security, it allows you to bond - and this certainly happened during our reading times, and it also exposes them to the cadence of your reading voice.

Now of course reading and writing and books are my favourite things and things to do. So I have never found reading to my babies/children a chore. It's something that I personally find exciting and enjoyable to do. When I was doing story time at public libraries, I found it very noticeable that the children who came along to these sessions and were consequently read to by library staff and parents, knew their letters, numbers and colours from a very early age. Clearly there are benefits to reading to children from a young age, but I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of this competitive pushing children along just so they can have some kind of academic advantage. My reasons for reading to babies and children is what I have already stated. It allows them to listen to you.

Presently I am reading some young adult novels for an assignment, that I intend to blog about at a later date. What I wanted to share with you today, was some picture books that we have gone on to after our My men books - and also the Little Miss series. Some favourites are:
A couple of standouts that have my son in fits of laughter are:

When I started reading to my son - and later my daughter - I never imagined that he would be diagnosed with autism. Looking back, I believe that reading to him has helped him. It calms him. It is a routine done every night after baths and just before bed, one that is looked forward to. He loves to choose what books to read, and giving him choice and teaching him to express what he wants is paramount in helping him engage with people. As part of his autism is a severe language delay, I have found some of the following titles invaluable in helping his speech. As I have been reading most of these books to him from a young age, and certainly before he was talking, it is safe to say that he knows them inside out. After some time, I realised that if I paused before saying the next word, as he knew full well what was to come, he would fill in the gaps. An example of this is with We're going on a bear hunt, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.
Its rhythmn and repetitiveness is superb in aiding his speech. Often I would say, we're going on a.....and he would fill the gap. Eventually I was doing this for almost every line in the book. Other books that also worked well in doing this are:

I'm continually adding to our picture book library at home. I have five book boxes (they're actually the Huggies nappy boxes) that I rotate. We do one book from our collection and two books borrowed from the library. This way they're reading books and getting exposed to repetition, but they're also being exposed to new books as well. Sometimes we borrow some absolute gems from the library that I look out for to buy them as birthday gifts or christmas presents. I like to use books as rewards for good behaviour too, but as they are still so young this will probably happen more often as the years go on. The other reason why I love to read library books is that it prevents me from getting too bored as well. You see, I like to read these picture books too (just for myself) and there's nothing better than reading titles that you yourself enjoyed as a child. The very hungry caterpillar and Are you my mother are familiar favourites from my own childhood.

Great recent contemporary titles that I've found:

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