Feb 022021
Musings on Raising Early Readers…
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First of all no textbook rules can be followed as far as raising readers are concerned (or anything parenting). Every kiddo is different and so is every parent. Some started reading while preggers or to new borns or at X months. Some got religious books, some classic board books, some swear by the black and white books and others say cloth books are the secret. 

(Pssst! This mommy got a Panchatantra paperback and a fairytale cut out board book at 1.5 months who was declared crazy and high on pregnancy hormones by the family).

Even no books work!! Whhhaatttt, you say? Yep, kiddo just wants to hear your voice. Tell them the story of how his/ her parents met or your reaction to the first ultrasound, or how it felt when the parents took baby in their arms for the first time, or how the sibling (if any) was anticipating baby’s arrival… your favorite season, current festival, anything. I really mean anything (this tip would be handy while you are traveling but are hesitant to put anything to the already overflowing diaper bag).

If you are a new parent who didn’t buy books beforehand or can’t for some reason (lockdown, sleep deprivation, diaper emergency, there are N reasons – we feel you!!!), don’t be hard on yourself. Just sharpen your imagination and storytelling skills to engage the kiddo. Let’s just keep this thought as a side note, because that’s not why you and I are here.

Let’s look at our expectations first. If it’s a story book you may want them to be patient and sit (or lie still) through the reading but hey, the little one is looking away, slightly older one is rolling in the opposite direction… Oh wait, they may be crawling towards that “thing” on the carpet or just run away… Does any of it sound like you and your kiddo? Well hang on, it’s all normal and age appropriate. Be open to how they would react to books and how much time they are engaged with books.

For starters, aim at skills. Those tiny fingers would move from palmer grip to pincer grip when the time comes… Focus more on taking out a book from the shelf (placing books on floor level shelf works wonders where the little ones may crawl/ walk and discover by themselves), holding book the right side up, flipping pages, opening flaps (without tearing), sliding the push/ pull tabs, etc.

I read somewhere, babies’ attention span is 2-5 mins per year of age i.e. upto one year, attention span would be 2-5 mins at a time; at 2 years, 4-10 mins and so on. Maximum attention span can be 30-40 mins (you know the reason why our school classes were generally of this time duration). Btw, if this value is wrong, then mommy brain is the culprit, hope you would excuse me, lol..!! But you got the drift, right? 

At the initial stages of introducing books, get a lot of variety (but one of each type). As has been suggested in KBC numerous times, a black and white book (high contrast book), a touch and feel book, a cloth book (mine never took to a cloth book hence suggesting to get one of each type), a lift the flap (play peek-a-boo with them for infants, it would be fun), bath books, indestructibles, books authored by Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), Sandra Boynton, Jill Murphy, Eric Hill (Spot series), Margaret Wise Brown (Good Night Moon), Karen Katz (lift the flap) are good to start for infants. As they grow add variety of category, say birds, animals, festivals, weather, solar system, non-fiction too.

Tummy time is the best time for infants to be introduced to books. For around first six months, these little people spend most of their time sleeping. So why not make the best of the waking hours and multi task!! Keep the books along with the toys in front of the baby!! Yes, it’s a toy for them. We bond with books during feeding and tummy time.

You may model “reading” by moving your finger along the text (for early readers, point to “objects” or “pictures” in the book. This would work well even beyond one year). You may want to talk in different tones, character voices, level of excitement modulating your voice. You may try to keep some specific sounds for each page and soon baby would be able to relate to that sound (checkout #kbcreadaloud tag in the very engaged facebook group).

Kids are little explorers in this whole new world, let them explore things other than books too. Just be consistent in the exposure, varied in book topics, fun in reading style and open to surprises!

Cheers to raising early readers!

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