At birth, the brain contains all the neurons that it will ever need for a lifetime of learning. Information travels between the neurons through synapses, or pathways between them. In the first years of life, the brain goes through a process of establishing and strengthening new synapses when it receives stimulation from the environment, and eliminating those that are seldom used. Therefore, the more learning experiences babies are provided with, the more learning pathways are established in their brain, and the greater their capacity to learn more.
Reading to a young child not only helps this process thrive, but is also a lovely way to bond. Clearly, children who read more have higher IQs than those who don’t. Reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge, stimulates eye muscles, piques curiosity, encourages thought and kindles imagination. Children who read are also less likely to suffer from attention disorders.With the number of distracting options available to children today, however, getting them to read will be a near impossible task if the love of books isn’t inculcated early. Children who are exposed to long hours of passive TV watching may never take to reading, as even children’s books require more attention, involvement and effort than simply staring at a screen; which is why a wholesome relationship with books should have been established long before exposure to electronic media.
Steps To Starting a Life-long Love Affair with Books:
- Establish a routine: read to your baby every day, when she is happy and relaxed. Bedtime is perfect.
- Buy books with rhythmic language for newborns. As babies grow older, they will love it when you make silly noises and mimic animal and bird calls, and make up songs as you read. Nursery rhymes are excellent for babies and toddlers.
- Let your baby touch, feel and play with the book. Establish the relationship between pictures and words by pointing as you read. Encourage her to hold the book, and turn the pages herself.
- Buy baby books that will pique curiosity, with colourful, attractive pictures, flaps that can be opened, textured surfaces and sounds when touched.
- Repeat books often enough for your baby to feel familiarity, comfort and confidence with them.
- Gradually increase complexity as your baby grows. Toddlers’ books may have simple stories and identifiable characters. Slowly introduce poetry, science and general knowledge. Encourage them to pick parts in stories and act them out.
- Add variety and humour, writers like Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl use unconventional, quirky language and rhyme that children find delightful.
- Surround them with books, instead of neatly stacking books in a shelf in one room, place books everywhere, so they have access to them wherever they go. Along with toy ducks, throw in a waterproof book into the bathtub!
- Take them along when you browse at bookstores and libraries. Encourage them to choose their own books occasionally.
- Continue to read to them as long as they want you to, no matter how old they are. For the rest of their lives, they will always associate books with the comfort of their parents’ proximity.