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C'mon Baby, Let's Read!

Ann E. Butenas


The first time I read a book to my oldest son was when he was four months old. I sat down on the floor, surrounded myself with a slew of picture books, placed my son on my lap and began his first journey into the wonderful world of illustrations and words! I knew at that time he did not understand a thing I was saying, but the tone and fluctuation of my voice as I verbally danced through the words became music to his ears. From that day forward, I made sure that reading was a part of his life each day and I have subsequently instilled that lesson in my other two sons. Now, my oldest son is eight years old and has his nose buried in a book at some point during the day! Many of his books don't even have pictures now! My! How he has grown since the early days of those "ABC" picture books!

Now my youngest son is in preschool and the highlight of his day is to bring home library books from the school's collection. For each 15 books he "reads" with Mom or Dad, he gets to choose a prize from the treasure chest! His interest in books has skyrocketed over the past few months!

In an effort to obtain more insight on reading to and with young children, I decided to make an inquiry of the director of Awesome Kids Preschool and Kids Day Inn, located in Leawood, Kansas, which is part of the greater Kansas City area. Bonnie Traynor, the preschool's director (, has over 20 years of experience in Early Childhood Education and takes this topic to heart.

To understand why it is important to read to your baby, Traynor explained, "The Child Literacy Centre notes that babies really benefit by being read to. The effort of focusing on pictures develops eye muscles. And each time he hears a particular word, it imprints more strongly in his brain. Think: How do our brains learn? They learn by doing. Each time your baby sees, hears, or feels anything, brain connections form. Eventually, the connections are strong enough to create a skill or a piece of knowledge."

In reading to a child at a such a young age, he begins to hear patterns, rhymes and sounds necessary to develop language, noted Traynor. "The reading readiness skills begin with parents talking and reading to their little one. The skills consist of matching (learning to match shapes, patterns, letters, and finally words), rhyming, letter skills, direction (eye movement from left to right), motor skills, concepts of print (following print the right way, turning pages, looking at pictures), and language skills. A child needs to hear and join in conversations and listen to stories and poetry of all sorts."

The difficult part is to understand which books are appropriate for children so young. "For babies and toddlers," said Traynor, "start with books that are fine to chew on! Soft, plastic books that squeak are fun and easy to clean! Bright, bold picture books to help with focus and identification are good, too. Further, books with poems, songs, or stories of repetition YOU enjoy reading are fun, too!" (Some examples of these types of books include Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Goodnight Moon; Caps for Sale, and the ever-popular Dr. Seuss books.) Repetition reinforces sounds, rhythms and connections between words.

A fun activity for you to do with your child, according to Traynor, is to make a book for the baby of family faces. "Fill a photo album or scrapbook. Put in pictures of the baby, any siblings, Mommy, Daddy, Grandparents, family pets and other people who are a part of the baby's life. Then 'read' this book together and enjoy the fun!"

Traynor noted that reading with your children, no matter what their ages, should be FUN! Find a quiet, cozy place, snuggle down and let the fun begin!

Traynor provided an age-appropriate list of books compiled by Bernice E. Cullinan, and they include the following:

Books for Babies and Toddlers (Birth to age 3)

Boats. Planes. Trucks. Trains. by Byron Barton
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Lunch by Denise Fleming
Spot Bakes a Cake by Eric Hill
Five Little Piggies by David Martin
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri

Remember! The best teacher your child can have is YOU! Think of all the places you can go and all the adventures you can have from the comfort of your own home! Page by page, you will create a world of memories!


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