“It isn’t just baby’s body that is growing this first year, baby’s brain is developing even more rapidly. Build Baby’s Brain With Books.” says Dr. John Hutton, Read Aloud 15 Minutes “SpokesDoctor.”
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its former recommendation that parents, grandparents, and caregivers start reading to babies beginning at six months, and recommended we start beginning at birth. Sadly, three years later, according to a national survey of parents, only 15% of parents say they read to their babies in the first year of life.
March is National Reading Awareness month. In response to those low numbers reported in the parent survey, the theme of Read Aloud’s 2017 campaign is “From Birth.” They are focusing on getting the word out to parents nationwide about the vital importance of reading to babies “from birth.” As the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, which provides books to new babies enrolled in the WIC program in Portland, as well as to families at food pantries, and as a Read Aloud Community Partner, I am excited to support Read Aloud’s efforts with this article. I will share with our Parent & Family families, the 10 benefits of reading aloud to babies and my own discovery of the exciting triple benefits of “singing books and reading songs” to babies birth to two years old.
The 10 Benefits of Reading Aloud to Babies
- Promotes Listening Skills
- Increases the Number of Vocabulary Words Babies Hear
- Develops Attention Span and Memory
- Helps Babies Learn Uncommon Words
- Helps Babies Learn To Understand the Meaning of Words
- Helps Babies Learn Concepts About Print
- Helps Babies Get Information From Illustrations
- Promotes Bonding and Calmness for Both Baby and Parent
- Stimulates the Imagination and the Senses
- Instills the Love of Books and LearningMany parents ask, “Do babies really get anything out of us reading to them?” Caroline Jackson Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez, coauthors of Every Word Counts, share their answers to that question on their website, www.readtoyourbaby.com.
That exciting list makes me just want to run out and find a baby to read to, so I can bestow those benefits to a baby. I don’t know how many more reasons parents, grandparents, and caregivers would need to hear to be convinced that reading aloud to babies is one of the most loving and brain building ways we can spend time with the babies in our life.
In addition to reading to babies, we can also transform our caregiving activities, like diapering, dressing, bathing, feeding, and transitioning babies, into loving connection times that also foster early literacy skills, by singing little songs to them before we begin a caregiving task and then again while we are doing the task. I call this “Sing Me a Book and Read Me a Song.” When we read books to babies, we are looking at the book and they focus on our voice, but, when we “sing” the book to baby, we are looking in their eyes and they can feel us being totally present with them. Singing turns caregiving times into special loving connection times, and brain building times.
Babies are like rechargeable batteries and we are their charger. They need to re-connect with us throughout the day. We are going to do those caregiving tasks repeatedly throughout the day, day after day, anyway. We, and our babies, can get triple the benefits from the time spent when we add a little baby melody for each task. Babies then get not only a dry diaper or a bath, they get the re-charge of love they need. The singing gives them the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition they need to build their foundation for literacy, and they get the predictability that eases transitions for babies (and grownups).
There are many children’s books that are actually songs combined with illustrations to make them into books. The famous children’s singer, Raffi, has done this with many of his most beloved songs. If we start singing the “song” books to our babies “from birth,” by the time they can sit up in our lap and look at the illustrations as we turn the pages and read them those same songs, they will be excited for their “song” books. The song/book I most often recommend singing at diapering time is, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. We sing it before, during, and sometimes after the diaper changing. The board book, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes is also one of the books selected by Raising Readers to be given to families at well child visits. Singing this song/book to your baby, at every diaper change, can change the experience of diaper changing.
Please join this campaign to raise our nation’s awareness of the vital importance of starting your read aloud for 15 minutes, every day, connection time “from birth.” By sending the link to this article on the Parent & Family website to every parent you know and asking them to do the same, you will be participating in my “each one reach one” campaign.
Let’s do this for our babies; they are all our babies.
Photo Shutterstock/Alex Tihonov