Advice from Canpol's experienced mothers.

Why is it good to read to babies?

In the beginning, I didn't read to my child, but instead - in accordance with specialists' recommendations - I talked to her constantly. I thought it was enough. I was out on a walk and met a friend, who showed me books she had bought for her baby. They had hardly any text in them, mostly nursery rhymes, but they had important, basic words as well as interesting, colourful illustrations. The pages were thick and, as I found out, bite-resistant.

And so, with my head full of ideas for my daughter's first book, I rushed into a children's book shop. I was amazed by the number of books directed at toddlers. Fortunately, thanks to skilled help, I was able to choose three books. One board book, with pages made of cardboard, similar to the one I saw the other mum have (bite-resistant) and two soft books. The board book had a "touchable" element on each page. For example, on the page with a rhyme about a monkey there was a picture of a monkey and its belly was covered with fur. I would take my daughter's hand and let her stroke the soft area. Soft books are like cuddly toys, pleasant to the touch and light, so they are a safe for the baby to play with. One of them made a mooing sound when pressed, as the main character in the book was a cow, and my daughter was really delighted by it.

However, the first reading was not easy at all. My daughter was fidgeting all the time and I had a feeling that it was going nowhere. Only later did I realise that reading aloud to a toddler who is 18 or 24 months old isn't anything like reading to a 5-year-old. When I would talk to Blanka, she didn't sit quietly, and yet it didn't bother me. I tried reading to her once again, but this time I tried not to worry so much. After that, reading started giving pleasure both me and my child. When I was reading a rhyme, I would point to the most important words on the picture or on myself. Reading aloud rhymes combined with cuddling and stroking made me feel even closer to my daughter. Sometimes I would read to her when walking around the house with her and rocking her to make her feel my nearness. Spending time this way was very nice and at the same time I felt that I was teaching my child new things.

I knew intuitively that what I'm doing is right. However, I decided to find out more about the positive effects of reading aloud to babies. According to my "study", it stimulates their brain activity. Thanks to their parents' reading aloud, small children - even though they can't yet speak, begin to understand speech and take their first steps towards learning to speak. By speaking and reading to the baby, you and your family show him what proper speech should sound like. As I mentioned earlier, spending time like this made me feel a closer connection with my child. Psychologists claim that children who are read to feel safe. Reading to a toddler also affects his ability to acquire knowledge in the future, and develops his memory. I thought to myself that if such a pleasant activity has so many advantages, then I'll be happy to continue doing it.

You can read almost anywhere and it's not arduous, and it gives you a lot of joy whether at home or on a walk. However, remember also about other games, and don't concentrate only on reading aloud. Observe what your child likes the most and choose books appropriate for his age. If you notice that he has a particular liking for a certain book, read it to him even if you already know it by heart. Try to diversify reading by changing intonation or gestures, or by showing illustrations.

If you want to, you can also sing the rhymes from the book to your child. Talk to other mums about what they read to their children, and ask librarians and book shop personnel for advice. However, remember that you know your child best and know what he likes or doesn't like. I wish you enjoyable (shared) reading moments!

Maria

Mum of 1 year old Blanka, 4 years of professional experience

Karolina Taranko

Creativity Psychopedagogue
- consulting

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