Just over a year ago this ‘conversation’ between DJ Pryor and his 18 month old son went viral on social media. Link here
The interaction which simulated a real conversation between DJ Pryor and 18 month old, Kingston was punctuated with turn taking, gestures, shared enjoyment, varying intonation, and a whole lot of babble. Apart from being cute and funny, the ‘conversation’ emphasises that babies learn language by listening to language. The thing about spoken language, is that all humans are innately programmed to learn to speak. The more you speak to children, the more they will learn.
What about reading?
Reading is different to spoken language because it is not innate. Children do not learn to read unless they are explicitly taught to read. Although you may feel silly reading to your baby, who seems to enjoy eating the book more than the actual story.
Why you should read to your baby early on:
- Reading together when babies are young creates a book-sharing routine and increases the chances that you will continue reading as they get older.
- Book-sharing routines create a sense of security. Your reading routine contributes a sense of security. Your voice may also be soothing.
- Reading means your baby is hearing language. The more words they hear, over and over again, the more they will learn.
- Reading books allows your baby to explore books by touching (or mouthing), opening and closing, and recognising pictures. This is the beginning of pre-literacy skills.
- Reading aloud stimulates young children’s language development and language acquisition. It develops listening comprehension, which is an important part of literacy development.
How to read with your baby
- Establish a reading routine. Reading routines can happen at any time. Reading does not need to happen at bedtime. You can read a story during mealtimes, bath time, or bedtime
- Take books wherever you go in case there is a reading moment. Read fiction and nonfiction picture books about familiar topics of interest.
- Choose books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition. This will enhance awareness of sounds which is necessary for early reading.
- Select a variety of books with different formats and genres. For example – plastic bath books, cardboard books, and pop-up books. You never know which books will grab your child’s attention. If possible, try and find books in your home language, with your cultural, and ethnic background. Books with personal connections are often highly motivating. You can even create your own story books using family photos.
- Don’t expect your baby to sit and listen to a whole story. Initially, 2 to 3 minutes of book reading is more than enough. Look for signs that your baby is interested in a book, such as smiling, gurgling, patting the page, pointing, imitating sounds and even grabbing the book. Stop when your baby is are no longer interested. Don’t push beyond what they are capable of.
- Don’t give up on reading too easily. If your baby isn’t interested in the first book you chose try a different one.Levels of engagement change across contexts, and times.
Reading aloud with young children is one of the most effective ways to expose them to enriched language and to encourage specific early literacy skills needed to promote school readiness (American Pediatric Association).
Here’s my inspiration for this post
This clip of Kitt – age 14 months, was posted on Twitter and as her dad, correctly points out, something is happening.
Yes! You are reading aloud to her.
Kitt, is well on the road to reading. She is clearly mimicking reading behaviour that she has learnt from being read to. She turns the page (albeit upside down ), and ‘reads’ with varying intonation, gestures (pointing) and enjoyment.
The important takeaway here is reading aloud to your babies and children is crucial; especially at a time in which competing entertainment such as screen time, electronic devices, and distractions, may limit family interactions and language exposure.
Reading regularly to young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development. In turn this builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.
This post first appeared on