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Baby Read-Aloud Basics This page intentionally left blank Baby Read-Aloud Basics F U N A N D I N T E R A C T I V E WAY S TO H E L P Y O U R L I T T L E O N E D I S C OV E R T H E WO RL D O F WO RD S C AROLINE J. BLAKEMORE & BARBARA W ESTON RAMIREZ American Management Association NEW YORK • ATLANTA • BRUSSELS • CHICAGO • MEXICO CITY • SAN FRANCISCO SHANGHAI • TOKYO • TORONTO • WASHINGTON, D. C. Special discounts on bulk quantities of AMACOM books are available to corporations, professional associations, and other organizations. For details, contact Special Sales Department, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Tel.: 212-903-8316. Fax: 212-903-8083. Web Site: www.amacombooks.org This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Blakemore, Caroline. Baby read-aloud basics : fun and interactive ways to help your little one discover the world of words / Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-10: 0-8144-7358-X ISBN-13: 978-0-8144-7358-0 1. Reading (Early childhood) 2. Reading (Early childhood)—Parent participation. I. Weston-Ramirez, Barbara. II. Title. LB1139.5.R43B58 2006 372.4—dc22 2005036273 2006 Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Hand drawings by Irina Gronborg. Photos on pages 1, 5, 21, 22, 31, 33, 44, 62, 66, 79, 82, 95, 98, 114, 116, 117, and 133 by Linda Posnick. This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocop; ying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of AMACOM, a division of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Printing number 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Dedications From Caroline J. Blakemore: To my precious students over the past thirty years, who taught me everything I know about what it takes to become a reader; and to my inspiring, bookloving grandchildren, who helped us create this book: Gavin, Sadie, Kaia; and to my soon-to-be-born fourth granddaughter. From Barbara Weston Ramirez: To my hard-working students from Mexico and Guatemala, who strive to become bilingual and adapt to a new culture; and to my older son, Fernando, who taught me how to raise a bilingual child; and to my son, Ricardo, who was born during the writing of this book, and became our test baby, and who is now a book lover. This page intentionally left blank Contents Acknowledgments ix Introduction 1 PART I Why Baby Read-Alouds Benefit Your Baby’s Language Development 7 1 Ten Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 9 2 Eight Baby Read-Aloud Basics 26 PART II The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages 35 3 Stage 1: The Listener (Birth to Two Months) 4 Stage 2: The Observer (Two to Four Months) 62 5 Stage 3: The Cooer (Four to Eight Months) 79 6 Stage 4: The Babbler (Eight to Twelve Months) 95 7 Stage 5: The Word Maker (Twelve to Eighteen Months) 113 8 Stage 6: The Phrase Maker (Eighteen to Twenty-Four Months) 133 PART III Practical Tips and Resources 9 43 155 Frequently Asked Questions About Talking and Reading to Babies 157 Fun Activities and Tips to Manage TV and Make a Language-Rich Home 175 11 Interviews with Parents of Successful Readers 194 12 Baby Books 101 218 10 vii viii Contents Notes 231 Additional Resources 237 Index 241 Acknowledgments When Caroline saw her tiny, tiny two-months premature grandson, Gavin, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) enveloped in his mother’s arms while she read him a baby book, Barbara and Caroline thought of their dear students, most of whom had rarely, if at all, been read to. We asked ourselves, ‘‘What if all babies received the kind of loving attention Gavin was getting through the attentive words he was hearing day in and day out from his devoted parents? How would reading aloud to babies from birth bring joy and abundance of all kinds into their lives?’’ Baby Read-Aloud Basics is the result of asking these questions and the answers we learned from researchers such as Drs. Betty Hart and Todd Risely, and Dr. Pamela High, MD. We are grateful to those individuals who laid the groundwork necessary to raise our awareness of the importance of spoken words on language and literacy development in babies. No one has done more to advance the cause of reading to children than Jim Trelease through his tireless cross-country lectures and book, The Read-Aloud Handbook. We have been inspired by his example. Without the thoughtful, kindly assistance of our brilliant agent, Stefanie Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary, this book would not have become a reality. We also thank her partner, Lilly Ghahremani for all her behind-thescenes work. If it weren’t for Michael Lennie, of Lennie Literary, we wouldn’t have met Stefanie and Lilly. We are indebted to all the parents who supplied photos, agreed to be interviewed, and shared their children’s book experiences with us. We’re also indebted to the skilled photographic work of Linda Posnick and to the early editing help we received from the editor of our first book, Bob Rowland. We thank Caroline’s long-time beloved friend, Irina Gronborg, well-known botanical artist, who generously ventured beyond plants to create our parent and baby drawings. Thanks also goes to Bob ix x Acknowledgments Cushman who has given many hours of technical support as well as friendship. Caroline is deeply grateful to her wonderful daughters-in-law, Kelli and Karen, for all their love and assistance, and to her sons, Peter Abraham and John Abraham, for their fun, upbeat encouragement and support; her brother, A. Myles Jackson, author, slam poet, and artist, who got us started with his generous writing and editing advice; and to her loving fiancé, Larry Gust for his support and enthusiasm for this project and keeping everything running smoothly in their active lives. Barbara is thankful to her mother, Kate Murty, a former teacher, who has always encouraged Barbara to persevere and put one foot in front of the other; and to her husband, Fernando, who is an exceptionally dedicated father, who took over while Barbara spent long hours on weekends working on this book. To most parents of newborns, kindergarten seems a long way off. Five years can seem like an eternity when you’re dealing with diapering, nursing, bathing, and laundry. Yet before you know it, the months quickly go by, and your precious little one will be walking, talking, going to preschool, and suddenly starting her first day of kindergarten. In those short five years—and especially the first two—even though you may not realize it, you will be the first and most important teacher your child will ever have. In fact, your influence will determine whether or not your child succeeds in school. No schoolteacher has the power that parents have to insure academic success. What is this power? It’s the power to give your baby the gift of words. That’s right! Words! Short words, long words, common Mother cuddles her newborn while quietly speaking loving words. words, and uncommon words. Lots and lots of words everyday. Recent research tells us that what determines future academic success is the amount of words per hour babies hear before the age of two.1 1 Photo by Linda Posnick. Introduction 2 Introduction As elementary school reading specialists, we see children who by the time they become of school age haven’t heard enough words in their first years of life and thus lack the basic language building blocks necessary to learn how to read. Reading and writing skills begin at birth when baby is first exposed to language. Learning to read doesn’t spontaneously happen when a child goes to school. It only comes easily when children have been immersed since birth in the world of words through a steady diet of hearing read-alouds and talk from their parents. What is so magical about words that make such a difference in your baby’s future? When you think about it, most communication and everything you learn in school involves words. Words are the basis of literacy, the ability to read and write. In order to succeed in school, children need to pay attention to, listen to, remember, understand, and speak words. These basic skills form the building blocks of literacy. Your baby acquires these building blocks naturally in the first years of life, but only if you set aside time every day to lovingly read and talk to your baby. As caregivers you need to begin early, talking and reading with your babies before the age of two, while they are experiencing a critical period of brain growth and receptivity to language. Babies begin to start talking at around two. This means that from birth to two their brains have been absorbing the language in their environment at a pace and intensity that only happens in the first years of life. Although during the first couple days after birth your baby may be a little weary from the birth process, her brain is far more active than that of her parents. Her brain is working overtime preparing for her life’s journey ahead. Parents play a critical role in this journey by supporting their baby’s language and literacy development. However, just as babies need to be fed, loved, and nurtured, they need daily language nourishment to complete their brain development. As you look at your peaceful, angelic newborn that only periodically opens her eyes to your loving gaze, you may ask whether reading to her can have any worthwhile effect. You might even feel silly reading when it appears there is no response. However, beneath your baby’s seemingly passive demeanor is an active brain that is fed by the loving sounds of language, and its rhymes and playful noises. As early as six weeks, babies will respond by looking and listening intently and smiling. Before six weeks many of your baby’s responses to your reading are invisible because they take place only in the brain. Even when baby is asleep the brain is busy making new brain cell connections in response to your reading aloud. Babies come into the world with about 100 billion brain cells (neurons).2 Introduction 3 It’s what happens to those brain cells after birth that is crucial to brain development. After birth, a baby needs stimulation from the parents, and everyone and everything in his environment. That stimulation promotes new connections among brain cells that resemble a massive, wired communication system. At birth, there are few connections. But soon afterward, cells begin sprouting wiry antennae that are called axons and little receptors called dendrites. The axons transmit signals, and the dendrites receive information across a minute gap called a synapse, or connection. This activity accounts for the increases in brain and head size we observe as babies grow.3 By the age of two, the number of brain connections escalates to 1 quadrillion (1,000 trillion).4 That is roughly the number of stars in the universe.5 As Emily Dickenson noted, ‘‘The brain is wider than the sky.’’6 Every word you say and read to your baby creates a brain connection that results in your baby’s brain growth.7 Think of your words as baby brain food. Every time you read and reread a book, your baby’s brain is absorbing information that will form his life- Mother reads, talks, and lovingly long literacy foundation. This will interacts with her baby. lead to the thrilling milestones that you’ll record in your journal, photographs, videos, and messages you tell your family and friends: your baby’s first spoken words, your toddler’s first full sentence, your child’s first attempts to read, her successes at school, her graduations, and professional accomplishments. This is why reading aloud to your baby is the best investment you can make in your child’s education. The Purpose of This Book Why did we, two elementary school reading specialists, write a book about the importance of reading to babies? Year in and year out we saw our beloved, bright-eyed kindergartners and first-graders come to us with little 4 Introduction or no experience with books. In most cases we discovered that these eager students had almost never heard anyone read to them during their first five years of life. As the read-aloud guru Jim Trelease states so simply, ‘‘If the child has never heard the word, the child will never say the word; and if you have neither heard it nor said it, it’s pretty tough to read it and to write it.’’8 We hope Baby Read-Aloud Basics will help parents discover it’s fun and easy to read aloud to babies. Anyone can do it. All it takes are some books, and we tell you how to acquire the best for the least expense in Chapter 12. It’s hard to imagine that anything so simple and easy can result in such critical benefits! Baby Read-Aloud Basics offers a fun, interactive approach that gives parents both the information on the importance of read-alouds, and the guidance on how to read to babies. Parents will find reading aloud not only gives babies a sense of well-being, but also provides the underlying neurological nourishment for optimum language development and future academic success. It is our hope that Baby Read-Aloud Basics will help provide you with the information and know-how you need to develop a treasured daily readaloud routine with your baby to give your little one the best possible start in life. How This Book Is Organized Baby Read-Aloud Basics is divided into three parts for easy and immediate use: • Part I: Shares WHY parents need to nourish their baby’s brain with words. You will learn about the most important benefits of reading to your baby, supported by recent studies that show how literacy begins at birth, and how the effects of reading aloud influence future reading and learning ability. The basics of reading aloud show how to get ready for your read-aloud routine. • Part II: Shows parents HOW to make the most of read-alouds starting at birth. In an interactive format, six read-aloud stages include step-by-step instructions, read-aloud demonstrations, recommended book types, and a guide to recommended titles. Everything parents need to read with their babies starting from day one! Introduction 5 Reading aloud brings attachment, intimacy, and harmony between parent and baby. Although in this book we use ‘‘your baby,’’ the person doing the read-alouds could be a grandparent, a loving caretaker, or any family member. When we use ‘‘mom,’’ ‘‘mother,’’ or ‘‘dad,’’ we mean any personal caregiver who has a loving relationship with the baby. We use ‘‘he’’ and ‘‘she’’ in alternating chapters to honor both sexes. It is our hope that in the near future all students will come to school having been read to in the first five years of their lives, and that their bright eyes will light up with joy at the ease of becoming new readers. We hope that most reading difficulties will become a condition of the past, and that children will soon be saved from such suffering. All it takes is the commitment to get books and Even at four months this baby is read-aloud know-how into every captivated by the illustrations in one of home, preschool, and childcare fa- his favorite books. cility. Start reading to your child today and make a difference in your child’s life and in the world! Photo by Linda Posnick. • Part III: Gives resources, questions and answers, interviews, and practical tips. Offers real-life success stories, resources, and answers to important issues facing today’s busy parents, including how to manage television watching, how to read to baby when parents speak different languages, how to ensure that children build language skills with a nanny or caretaker, and where to find the time for read-alouds during busy days. This page intentionally left blank PA RT I Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development This page intentionally left blank CHAPTER 1 Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One Let’s take a look at ten ways your baby will benefit from a daily read-aloud routine. The emotional, mental, physical, and sensory benefits of daily reading to your baby are too great to ignore! Important research highlights the crucial role parents take in laying the building blocks that form their child’s language and literacy foundation. Your baby’s brain is equipped to absorb enormous amounts of information. Because of new technologies, we are witnesses to the incredible wonders of human infant development that begin well before birth. For example, new evidence tells us that seemingly passive babies are, in terms of brain activity, more active than adults. We now know that it is the time before babies start talking—from birth to two—that is critical for their future language development. This chapter will show you the benefits of reading to your baby—from enjoying calming moments together to starting the foundation of learning development and future academic success. 1. Read-Alouds Promote Listening Skills Every language is different, and yet, babies all over the world quickly become experts in their own language. For example, in French you would say le maison blanc, or the house white. In English you would say the white 9 10 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development house. How do babies learn the correct word order of their own languages? They learn by listening to their families. Listening is a critical skill in the formation of language. Your baby has already begun listening to you since the last few months of pregnancy, and by birth has a fairly well developed hearing ability. Communication is a basic survival instinct for all life forms. Parents start talking to their baby before and after birth, beginning the interactive dialogue that will later turn into give-and-take conversations. Parents notice how intently newborns listen. Newborns instantly recognize their parents’ voices and can already begin to recognize the difference between their parents’ language and other languages. Within four months, babies not only know how the spoken language of their parents sounds, but recognize their own names.1 After hearing hundreds of books read aloud, by the time children go to school they can tell the difference between spoken language and the language of books. The language of books has its own style, and it is different from most spoken language. For example, in a book, if a verse form is used, it may have rhyming words, and a special rhythm. It may also have expressive nonsense words, like the following passage from Jane Yolen’s Off We Go! (see Chapter 7): Scritch-Scratch, scritchity scratch, Directly from the egg I hatch, Then off to Grandma’s house I dash, Sings Little Duck.2 We wouldn’t typically use the above word order in everyday spoken language. Most of us might say something like, ‘‘I hatched directly from the egg, and I’m rushing to Grandma’s house.’’ The sooner babies are introduced to book language, the better. Books give additional practice in hearing the structure, grammar, and word order of language. Some baby books have phrases, the basic elements of which are repeated on every page. For example, ‘‘Was Santa in the chimney? Was Santa near the Christmas tree? Was Santa in the kitchen?’’ And so on. This repetition of the question form using similar phrasing helps babies absorb a useful language pattern. Each baby or children’s book has some element of language or a pattern, that when heard repeatedly, helps babies internalize book as well as spoken language. This repeated exposure gives children a head start once they go to school. It will allow them to comprehend more complex Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 11 stories like chapter books and ease into the reading and writing process. The sooner babies are introduced to book language, the better. When a child has the ability to listen attentively, he can easily absorb the thousands of words of vocabulary, sounds, and structure of language. By listening, he will eventually understand the meaning of what is being said. Soon he will begin speaking all those words he has heard from birth. 2. Read-Alouds Increase the Number of Vocabulary Words Babies Hear Drs. Betty Hart and Todd Risley, in their book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, completed a comprehensive study that recorded the spoken language interactions between the children and parents from forty-two families who ranged from professional to low-income backgrounds. The researchers recorded the parent-child conversations for one hour each month over a period of two-and-a-half years. At age nine, the same children were retested for academic progress in school. The research demonstrates that what determines academically successful children is the amount of language or talk they hear per hour from adults in the first few years of life.3 The study also shows that the number of words babies hear each day is the single most important predictor of future intelligence, school success, and social skills. Here are some of their significant findings about the language differences in children: • Eleven-to-eighteen-month-old children from professional families heard an average of 2,150 words per hour. Working-class children heard an average of 1,250 words per hour, and low-income children heard only 620 words per hour. • Professional mothers spoke to their babies using more complex language that included a variety of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, while low-income parents used fewer words and often used commands. Professional parents asked questions of their children, and followed their child’s lead by talking about whatever the child said or babbled, thereby expanding the conversation. (See examples of this type of interaction in the demonstrations of parents reading to their babies in Chapters 3 to 8.) 12 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development • Children from professional families had lots of books in their bedrooms, an indication that they had access to books and were read to before bed. • Babies from professional families heard a much higher frequency of positive feedback, while low-income family babies heard more negative feedback. (See examples of positive feedback in the demonstrations of parents reading to their babies in Chapters 3 to 8.) • By age two, a child from a professional family would have heard about 24 million cumulative words from their families. Working-class children would have heard about 15 million words, and low-income children only about 8 million. By age four this number escalated to 45 million for professional family children, 26 million for working-class children, and 13 million for low-income children. This means that by age four, professional family children heard 32 million more words than the low-income family children in the study. By the time these children entered kindergarten there was even more of a word gap. • The children in the study were tested again at age three, and testing showed that the number and quality of words the three-year-old children heard when they were babies predicted the number of words in their spoken vocabularies when they were ages three and nine. It also predicted their IQs (100 is average): 117 for the children of professional families, 107 for children of working class families, and 79 for the lowincome children. By the time the children reached nine years of age, the testing scores reflected the same gaps. The children who heard the fewest words had not caught up to those who heard an abundance of words before ages two and three. This study demonstrates the significant role parents play in providing the quality and quantity of language necessary for their child’s academic success. All the families in the study loved and cared for their children. The lowincome families didn’t know how to communicate with their babies in a way that generated a rich abundance of ongoing conversation that was predominately positive and full of words. There is hope, however, for helping families learn how to give their children more vocabulary, as you’ll see in the research of Dr. Pamela High later in this chapter. Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 13 3. Read-Alouds Develop Attention Span and Memory In recent years, schoolteachers have noticed that there is an increasing number of children who cannot pay attention for any length of time when in school. One study links this trend to the increased time that children watch television and other screen media (see Chapter 10). Children who are read to on a daily basis are known to have long attention spans. You’ll notice how long your two- and three-month-old can hold his interest in the giveand-take dialogue that takes place during a reading session (see Chapter 2 on parentese). The abilities to pay attention and remember are related. How can you remember something when you don’t give it your full attention? When you read aloud to your baby day in and day out, you are repeating various words and phrases, describing, and talking about illustrations. Babies are capable of an intense concentration that you don’t see in older children. Their brains are searching and scanning everything they come in contact with in order to get information and meaning. If this ability to pay attention is not nurtured from day one, we are teaching our babies just the opposite: to have divided attention. Watching television teaches children to get information in short, fast, scattered visual and sound bits and pieces. Reading, on the other hand, requires a thoughtful presence of mind extended over a longer period. Reading aloud to your baby is the best way to help develop attention and memory. Babies learn how to focus their attention in a quiet atmosphere, listen to your voice, remember what they hear, and respond using body language, coos, and babbles until they can answer using their own words. If read to on a regular basis using the suggested ‘‘parentese’’ voice methods outlined in Chapter 2, some babies can hold their attention steadily for at least a half hour. By around age eighteen months to two years, your baby will be able to remember all the words in a book after only a few readings. By around two or three years, your baby will remember language patterns in nursery rhymes and books. No matter what age, they will be fascinated by the tones of your voice, the sounds of your language, and the captivating, colorful illustrations. What a beautiful way to bring up your child resonating to the harmony, peace, and joy imparted in children’s books. No wonder your child wants to keep his attention focused during the time you are reading aloud. No wonder he’ll eventually memorize some of the passages and refrains you’ve read to him. 14 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development 4. Read-Alouds Help Babies Learn Uncommon Words When you read to your baby, he hears both your words and the words from the book. Words from children’s books are different and more unusual than everyday conversational words. A study by Donald P. Hayes and Margaret G. Ahrens shows that everyday conversational language is rather simple and straightforward.4 Its main purpose is to make the point quickly, whether adults are talking to each other or to children. The pitch, rhythm, pace, and volume may change when talking to babies (see Chapter 2 for description of ‘‘parentese’’), but the complexity of the speaking vocabulary remains relatively low. This eight-month-old can focus her According to the Hayes-Ahrens attention for long periods because she is study, there are 5,000 words that accustomed to having family members are used commonly in everyday like grandma read to her daily. language. In addition, there are 5,000 more everyday words that are used less frequently. Together they form the basic 10,000 commonly used words. Any words not in this lexicon are called ‘‘rare words.’’ Words were given a rank according to their frequency of use in written language. For example, ‘‘the’’ is the most used word and is ranked number 1. Any word that is ranked higher than 10,000 would be considered rare. For example, the frequency rate of ‘‘amplifier’’ is ranked at 16,000. The study shows that most spoken language occurs in the 400–600 range, which is quite low.5 How do children learn rare words if they don’t ordinarily hear them spoken? They learn them from hearing books read aloud or from reading. Even baby books, according to the study, have 16.3 rare words per thousand, compared to 9.3 rare words per thousand when adults speak to children. It’s the rare words that children need to learn in order to be able to understand story books read to them in school or books and textbooks they will read to gain knowledge and information.6 The following charts show the amounts of rare words per thousand in conversation and in print.7 Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 15 NUMBER OF RARE WORDS PER THOUSAND: IN CONVERSATION Adults talking to infants 0–2 years Adults talking to preschool children 2–5 years Adults talking to school-age children 6–12 years Adults talking to adults 9.3 9.0 11.7 17.3 NUMBER OF RARE WORDS PER THOUSAND: IN PRINT Preschool books Children’s books Comic books Adult books Popular magazines Newspapers Scientific articles 16.3 30.9 53.5 52.7 65.7 68.3 128.0 NUMBER OF RARE WORDS PER THOUSAND: CONVERSATION AND PRINT Adults talking to infants 0–2 years Preschool books Children’s books 9.3 16.3 30.9 We have seen from the Hart-Risley study and in our own classrooms that many children don’t even have a sufficient number of the basic 5,000 words in their vocabulary. To excel in school, in the marketplace, and in life, every child needs access to the full range of commonly spoken words as well as the more uncommon written vocabulary of books. According to the Hart-Risley study, all parents regardless of socioeconomic level tend to speak less to their children during the time before two years of age when children need to hear the most language. Not only does your child need lots of everyday language before two, but lots of language that includes more uncommon words, the words found in children’s books. If babies hear some rare words everyday, these words will eventually become part of the vocabulary they understand as well as their spoken vocabulary. Examples of Uncommon Words Your Baby Hears When You Read to Her What are examples of uncommon or rare words that you are likely to see on the printed page but not hear in typical conversation? Following is a selection of some uncommon words from infant board books that appear in 16 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development the Baby Book Reviews at-a-Glance at the end of Chapters 3 to 8. We don’t know whether every one of these words is officially rare, or above the 10,000th in rank. We do know that preschool or baby books have 16.3 rare words per thousand compared to an average of 9.3 rare words per thousand used in spoken language to babies up to two years of age. So we can assume that most baby books you read to your baby will have at least one or more rare words. Each of the fun words below inspires the imagination. Yet we probably wouldn’t use most of these words in our daily talk with babies or other family members. Words like slither, collide, fluffy, and darkness conjure up a magical world that brings joy and wonder to the ears of babies and toddlers. Not that a child might not hear these words occasionally in conversation, but it’s the context of the stories in which they occur and the repetition of the telling of the stories that expands a baby’s brain connections and reinforces neural (brain cell) pathways. This reinforcement allows babies to quickly retrieve these words when needed in future conversation, reading, or writing. A SELECTION OF UNCOMMON AND PERHAPS RARE WORDS FROM INFANT BOARD BOOKS IN CHAPTERS 3 TO 8 young fetch bounce swing slime aircraft collide daylight enormous fluffy flipping flamingo darkness struck spin scramble creep passenger quilted furious excitement peek scales walrus paddled fiddle prance swirl slither steep parasol giggling quarreling darting stripes whale frightened twirl skitter meadow dash tow darkness extinguish grinning flashy spotted zebra As our examples of parents reading to their babies in Chapters 3 to 8 demonstrate, the amount of talk and conversation escalates when reading a book. In addition to the words read from the book’s pages, the book actually provides a vehicle for much more conversation than usual between parent and child—which is another plus of reading aloud to babies. Often this conversation includes some of the book’s uncommon or rare words. Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 17 When toddlers begin to talk, they understand far more words than they can initially speak. When children begin learning to read around school age, they understand many more words than they can actually read. Preschooland kindergarten-age children need to comprehend the many directions and discussions taking place in their classrooms. They will need to comprehend the stories heard during read-aloud time. As they begin to learn to read, rare words will not be problematic if they have heard their parents read and talk about these words (as well as hundreds and hundreds of others) from birth. In the following selection of words from a typical first-grade textbook, you’ll see words that you normally don’t use in everyday conversation, yet are necessary for a child to understand in order to have good reading comprehension. In our experience as reading specialists, these and hundreds of other uncommon or rare words are those that struggling readers unfortunately do not understand. In most cases, the students with low vocabularies have not been read to on a regular basis, have watched too much television, and have not been involved in enough adult-to-child conversation. A SELECTION OF WORDS FROM A FIRST-GRADE READING TEXTBOOK8 greedy appetite field appear crew stalked meadow gather slinky flicked canoe journey equal fraction delighted pleasant argued half expected creep 5. Read-Alouds Help Babies Learn to Understand the Meanings of Words Kindergartners come to school with incredible differences in vocabulary development. Children learn vocabulary in the home from birth to five from hearing their parents, caregivers, and other adults talk and read to them. The amount of vocabulary children understand by the time they get to kindergarten determines how well they will achieve academically. Almost all the teaching for the first two years of school is oral, including listening to books read aloud by the teacher. How well children understand what is read aloud and spoken to them determines how well they will learn to read and comprehend what they read. Children who have difficulties understanding oral language in the classroom are sometimes identified as having auditory processing problems that require the services of a speech and language pathologist. Understanding vocabulary is the basis of communication, literacy, and 18 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development intelligence. The only way babies and toddlers can learn and understand vocabulary is to hear words directly from a person who is talking to them. Television and radio cannot teach babies vocabulary.9 The American Academy of Pediatrics is quite specific in their recommendation that children under two should not watch television.10 Babies like to hear talk directly from their parents or caregivers. Parents naturally speak in what is called ‘‘parentese’’ or ‘‘motherese’’ (see Chapter 2), Typical kindergarten classroom where and this sing-songy, child-directed children are expected to sit, listen, and comprehend a story. speech with its long, drawn-out vowel sounds and comforting tones encourages language development and makes conversation meaningful to babies. What is the most important skill of good readers? Many parents might say the answer to this question is phonics. Why? Because it would seem that when you know the sounds of the letters in the alphabet, you could sound out and read any word. But sounding out words isn’t enough. Without a large vocabulary and an understanding of what you’re reading, you’re not really reading, just saying a blend of sounds. In addition, some words with which you are unfamiliar may defy proper sounding out. When you already know the word’s meaning it’s easy to sound it out, but what good does it do to sound out every word if you don’t understand what the words are communicating? Comprehension is the most important skill of good readers. The whole purpose of reading and writing is to communicate information. This ability begins developing at birth when your baby listens intently to gain meaning from your words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and actions. To read is to understand the messages in all those black symbols on a white page. Before a child can understand the symbols, he has to understand the spoken word. Listening comprehension leads to reading comprehension. Recent research conducted under the direction of Pamela High, M.D., through the Department of Pediatrics at Rhode Island Hospital, proves that children from any income group can achieve enhanced language development when families receive developmentally appropriate children’s books, Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 19 educational materials, and advice about sharing books with babies and toddlers.11 The study was conducted with a multicultural group of 205 low-income families with five- to eleven-month-old babies. About half of the families (106) were given books, materials, and personal instructions on how to read books daily to their babies. The parents and children usually read together at bedtime. The other 99 parents in the control group were given no books or instruction in how to use them. All the 205 families were visited three or four times by the researchers. When the children in the study were revisited at eighteen months, 75 percent were given receptive vocabulary (the vocabulary that toddlers understand, but cannot yet say) tests. The testing showed the following results: • There was a 40 percent increase in receptive vocabulary (words babies understand, but may not yet speak) in the children whose parents received books and personal instructions on how to use them. The children whose families received no books or instructions had only a 16 percent increase in receptive vocabulary. • The families who received books and personal instructions read more with their toddlers. • Parents who received books and personal instructions said they changed their attitudes toward the importance of reading with infants and toddlers. • Parents who read to their babies and toddlers said reading aloud was one of their child’s favorite activities, and one of parents’ favorite activities to do with their child. This promising research shows that any parent can give their child all the language advantages that daily reading aloud provides. All they need is the encouragement, the books, and the know-how. More importantly, this research demonstrates that reading aloud to babies achieves an increase in receptive vocabulary that will later translate into spoken vocabulary and the skills necessary for reading and writing. 6. Read-Alouds Help Babies Learn Concepts About Print In kindergarten and even first grade, some children can’t distinguish between a word, letter, or number. These concepts along with other knowledge 20 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development about books, such as recognizing the front cover with the title, are tested in kindergarten with the CAP (Concepts About Print) test.12 Children who have been read to since birth will easily know these concepts. By preschool many children can identify letters, numbers, and perhaps a few words. But even if they don’t know what the words, letters, or numbers say, they know the difference, and can point to a number in response to the prompt, ‘‘Point to the number.’’ Repeated readings of counting books like Molly Bang’s Ten, Nine, Eight will expose babies and toddlers to numbers. After the age of two, your toddler will have seen hundreds of books with numbers, words, and letters of different sizes and fonts. (See Chapters 3 to 8 for all the books mentioned here.) Another concept babies learn when they are read to is that we read from left to right and from top to bottom. After watching their parent’s finger sweep across the page under the print from left to right, babies internalize this movement, and their eyes automatically move in this direction too. A very small number of three-year-olds start reading after seeing their parents read to them like this on a daily basis. No matter when your child learns to read, his eyes will soon be trained in this left to right movement from the many times he followed his parent’s finger sliding under the print. He also learns from the early age of around ten months to turn the pages in the right direction. Understanding that they are supposed to get a message or meaning from print is a critical concept for toddlers to absorb once they begin to understand the meaning of words, sentences, and longer passages. Around eighteen months, when parents start pointing to the words they’re reading, babies realize that many of the words coming out of daddy and mommy’s mouths come from those black squiggly lines on the pages of his books. Babies soon learn that the print on the page carries a message. The whole point of reading is to gain meaning and understanding. When children understand the message of what they hear read to them, they will easily comprehend the message when they later become independent readers. 7. Read-Alouds Help Babies Learn to Get Information from Illustrations Illustrations are almost as important as the text in baby books when it comes to generating language and inspiring the imagination. The reason the Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 21 Photo by Linda Posnick. words in books are so important is that they include rare words that you usually don’t use in regular conversation. However, the illustrations or photographs are helpful in stimulating baby’s visual development. As baby’s binocular vision grows along with the ability to notice details, book illustrations can aid visual development. The best thing about the illustrations is that they encourage conversation. In fact, in some cases, you don’t even have to read the text, or there is no text. You ‘‘read’’ the pictures. Such is the case with Tana Hoban’s White on Black, a wordless picture book, or the almost wordless Carl’s Afternoon in the Park by Alexandra Day. After a few months of being read to since birth, babies can tell the difference when you’re reading and when you’re talking about the pictures. You may point to certain words for emphasis, like ‘‘no’’ in No, David! by David Shannon. Other times you’ll point to the illustration of the tiny mouse in Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown or the colorful keys in Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. Your baby will see you point to words and illustrations over and over and understand the different kinds of information you get from each. Sometimes, especially when your baby is beginning to understand more and more words after about nine months, you may look at a book like This three-month-old is attempting to focus on the colorful illustrations of a book mom is reading to him. 22 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development Richard Scarry’s Best First Book Ever!, point to the illustrations, and label them: ball, shoes, pajamas. There are a variety of illustrated books with or without labels. The wordless picture book White on Black, though simple with one image on each page, is one of the first books babies see when they’re introduced to labeling at two months (see Chapter 4). Not that you expect two-month-old babies to know what you are talking about, but their vision and hearing is being stimulated, as you comfort them with words and attention. You are introducing them to the process of reading pictures and having a conversation. Soon this process will be second nature, and they will know all about getting information from illustrations. At about nine or ten months (if you have read to him daily since birth), your baby will crawl over to the bookshelf or book box, take out his favorite book, and independently look at the pictures and turn the pages. Usually, only babies who have been read to daily from birth can do this independently. Most parents who read regularly to their babies say they love it. We often hear: ‘‘I look forward to our special reading time’’ or ‘‘It’s so relaxing.’’ Reading aloud is one of the easiest and least complicated of all the daily tasks that you do with your baby. It helps you bond and attach to your baby because you’re putting everything aside to give full attention to your precious little one. It promotes family togetherness. It’s a built-in (routine) time-out for you, as well as for your children. It’s as essential for baby’s emotional and mental development as food is for physical development. Photo by Linda Posnick. 8. Read-Alouds Promote Bonding and Calmness for Both Baby and Parent This father and his baby have already bonded through their daily reading routine. Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 23 Children’s books, with their adorable illustrations, are usually so magical that they weave their calming spell over you and your baby. A new mother might be tired from the changes a newborn brings to the family routine. Taking time to sit and gaze at your baby while he listens to a little story, even for a few minutes, is calming. It’s good for both you and your baby, especially when you know you are providing your child essential nutrients for his brain. This routine will bring bonding and closeness for many years to come. For dads, read-alouds can be an important way to immediately bond with baby and continue this important relationship right through the early school years. Right after birth, mom is still physically bonding with baby through nursing. By reading to baby, dad is fulfilling the important role of feeding baby’s brain with words. In this way, dad will also feel attached to baby, and little by little this relationship will become routine, a habit that baby loves and comes to expect. What better way for dads to bond with their newborn! 9. Read-Alouds Stimulate the Imagination and All the Senses Teachers notice that children who watched several hours of television a day when they were babies and preschoolers show less creativity and imagination. Listening to a storyteller or a story from a book that is dramatized, whether fiction or nonfiction, helps children learn to form images in their heads using sensual memories like how things feel, taste, smell, sound, or look. This process helps children make sense out of what they hear and leads to good reading comprehension. It causes them to think, to wonder, to perceive using their senses, and to empathize—important ingredients in living a rewarding, thoughtful, and happy life. Imagination leads to psychological and spiritual health. All great cultural, artistic, scientific, and philosophical contributions come about because of the ideas generated by our imaginations. The word imagination comes from image, the ability to use our senses to form images with our inner vision. Most thinking involves imagery. Imagination is the key to play, which is so important to children’s development. Yet as teachers, we see a number of children who cannot pretend. These children often have less vocabulary and have watched too much television. Imagination allows us to imagine our future and plan what we will do with our lives. When you see a particularly animated parent or grandparent reading to a 24 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development baby, you notice how, in addition to dramatizing the words, they point to the illustrations and direct baby’s eyes to a particular object like an orange. They may say something like, ‘‘This is what an orange looks like. Can you imagine what it smells like, what it feels like? Let’s get a real orange and see.’’ Then baby can touch the orange and smell it. He looks at it and is told this is what orange, the color, and orange, the fruit, looks like, and so on. Then the orange is broken apart in order to further smell the peel, then lick and taste the inside sweet, juicy pulp. All this touching, smelling, seeing, hearing, and tasting stimulates brain cells and is recorded for future reference. There are endless opportunities for sensual exploration during readalouds! As many of the senses as possible should be brought into play when reading. This helps babies strengthen their senses of touch, smell, hearing, visual, and taste perceptions, all of which support the eventual reading process. 10. Read-Alouds Instill the Love of Books and Learning When a nine- or ten-month-old independently goes to pull out his books from his bookshelf, he does so because he has experienced that books give pleasure even when he just sits for a short time by himself and looks at them. That independent pleasure is associated with the pleasure he gets cuddling with his parents and reading before naps or bedtime. The association of books with love and comfort will last a lifetime. The joy of reading will serve him well in school where studies show that students who read for pleasure outside of school are the high achievers. Enjoying reading is an important part of the literacy equation because it involves the emotions and the motivation to read. Without the motivation to read, children don’t read. As children progress through school, the amount of reading for pleasure accomplished outside of school adds hundreds of words to their vocabulary, many of which are rare words. One study shows that during a typical school year children at the 90th percentile (the top of their class) read 200 times more words outside of school than children at the 10th percentile of their classes.13 Not only does all this reading enlarge vocabulary, it literally expands the brain through the multiplication of brain connections and neural pathways, so important for thinking skills and achievements of all kinds. When you read to your baby, you are giving your child some of life’s greatest gifts: the cuddly, loving warmth of a close, one-to-one daily read- Ten Beneﬁts of Reading Aloud to Your Baby from Day One 25 This nine-month-old enjoys looking at the books her parents have read to her. aloud time, an enriched vocabulary that forever expands the mind, a knowledge of everything about books and all that can be learned from them, and a motivation and love of reading that will lead to a happy, successful life. How wonderful that the simple act of daily read-alouds reaps so many benefits for babies. You don’t have to be super mom or dad. You don’t need special qualifications. All you need is books. With books, any parent no matter what educational background or culture can be their child’s most important and beloved teacher. So start reading to your baby today! CHAPTER 2 Eight Baby Read-Aloud Basics What You Need to Know to Get Started Now that you’ve read in Chapter 1 about the wide-reaching benefits of reading to your baby, you probably can’t wait to get started. Just look over the following eight baby read-aloud basics, and you and your baby can begin a journey together that will enrich your lives. Besides the calming and bonding benefits, you’ll develop a conversational resonance through everyday ideas and events that children’s books inspire. In the very beginning you may feel like it’s a one-way monologue, but before you know it, you’ll be in a dialogue in which your baby responds to you by locking her eyes in rapt attention on your eyes, your mouth, and the book. She’ll wiggle her legs and arms, and breathe faster. In return you’ll read more to her, and the read-aloud dance is underway with all its lifetime benefits of increased vocabulary and language skills. 1. Newborns Need a Quiet Reading Environment As your baby makes the transition from a uterine environment to our noisy, well-lit, open-air world, many physiological changes are taking place. A newborn’s perceptual system does not screen out everything that her eyes see, her ears hear, or her skin feels. Be sensitive to your newborn’s needs by providing quiet time when she can listen clearly to your voice as you talk or read to her. When reading to your baby, turn off any competing noises, such as the television, stereo, or radio. In early infancy, it is especially important 26 Eight Baby Read-Aloud Basics 27 to prevent overstimulation or stress. During read-alouds, allow your baby to hear only your rhythmic voice without the disturbance of background noises. 2. Newborns Are Comforted by the Sound of Your Voice Initially, right after your child’s birth, you have a lot of leeway in what you may select to read to your baby. One parent told us he read aloud from the stock market pages of the newspaper. Since babies are mostly focusing on your voice at the outset, you could read anything aloud. However, since babies love your melodious voice, the best choice right after birth might be any kind of rhymes, such as ‘‘Mother Goose.’’ Some parents start right out with board books, such as Goodnight Moon, and note that their babies become so accustomed to these books that they continue to request them for the first year or longer. Gradually you will become aware of your baby’s favorites and select books that you know she would like. As babies mature, they become pickier and let you know what they like through their body language. Whatever you choose to read, become aware of the effect of the sound of your voice on your baby. Note your baby’s excited movements when you read with enthusiasm or change the pitch of your voice. 3. Hold and Cuddle Your Baby When You Read The most important thing to remember when reading a book to your infant is that you are providing love, attention, and intimacy while giving important language input. When babies are old enough to begin to choose books and bring them to you to read, often what they really want is to cuddle and to be given loving attention. When you first hold a newborn it can feel awkward, especially before they can hold their heads up. Imagine holding a book and a newborn at the same time. After a little practice, you’ll find the most comfortable position, whether it’s in your favorite rocker with a ‘‘boppy’’ (a donut-shaped nursing pillow) or lying next to your baby on the bed. 4. When Choosing a Book, Allow Your Baby to Be Your Guide There is no prescription from pediatricians, educators, or psychologists recommending a list of books for each stage of a child’s early development. 28 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development This is a good thing, as we have never encountered identical lists of books from parents we interviewed. Each child is unique and has his own preferences. One size does not fit all. Parents begin early with books they think their child will like (see Chapters 3 to 8 for suggested books) and then reread many, many times those that get a favorable reaction. Newborns benefit most from hearing your familiar voice reading poems or books with rhythm and rhyme when they are awake or asleep. After the first two or three months, your baby will react favorably by looking back and forth with interest between your face and the book, wiggling her legs and hands with excitement, or smiling happily. Conversely, if your baby is not enthused about a book she may look away from your face and the book, push the book aside, or fall asleep. By the time your baby is a year or more, she will select the books she wants you to read from the shelf, pile, or basket. Your choice of books is not as important as making the choice to read to your baby on a regular basis. By making that choice, you will give your baby a powerful boost of language development, the benefits of which will last a lifetime. More importantly, your baby will associate reading with cuddly love and attention. 5. Start Reading at Any Page You don’t have to finish a book, or even start at the beginning. You can go right to the part you know your baby likes best and have fun on one or more pages by dramatizing different parts with a variety of voice inflections and tones. Your baby may even want to switch back and forth between one book and another. Often baby books do not contain stories, but illustrated rhymes or labeled pictures. Skipping around the text is easy in these types of books. If there is a story line, it still doesn’t matter if you pick and choose pages that interest your baby. 6. You Don’t Have to Read All of the Words in the Book Sometimes you’ll find that your baby prefers that you merely point to the illustrations and name some objects, or that you make up your own words or story as you go along rather than reading what the words on the page say. Your baby will let you know. For example, when you select a favorite book for your baby, if you know from previous readings that your child prefers a Eight Baby Read-Aloud Basics 29 certain page, you can turn directly to that page. You can read it in the way your baby loves to hear, perhaps dramatizing certain sentences or words by speaking them more loudly or in a squeaky voice. How will you know what pages your baby likes best? She may wiggle her arms and legs or gaze at the page with great interest. She might also look at the page longer than other pages. For a wordless picture book, like Tana Hoban’s White on Black, you may dream up anything you want to say about the pictures of simple objects. Your baby will show you which pictures she’s most intrigued by. In this interaction with your baby the most important element is listening, observing and following your baby’s cues. Your baby will let you know what pages she prefers and how long to remain on a page. Usually, at this stage it’s best to remain on a page for only a few seconds. 7. Repeated Readings Are Good for Baby’s Language Development As soon as your child can speak in phrases some of the first words you’ll hear are ‘‘read it again.’’ Hearing language from books repeatedly helps children memorize it. Eight-month-olds can remember certain words that are read to them after two weeks of hearing repeated readings.1 Reading the same books over and over again may seem an interminable task, but the language benefits as well as your child’s joy will keep you going. Even at birth babies have been shown to prefer hearing books that were read to them in utero. Researchers gave newborns a choice between hearing their mothers read a new book or hearing a book read repeatedly before birth. Using a sucking device, babies responded by increased sucking when they heard the familiar book read to them before birth.2 (See Chapter 3 for examples of parents who read to their babies before birth.) Rereading of traditional nursery rhymes starting at birth helps your baby identify and learn the sounds of his language. A good knowledge of sound discrimination forms the basis of later reading and writing skills. 8. Use ‘‘Parentese’’ When Reading and Talking to Your Baby If you think reading to babies is having a quiet baby on your lap soaking up every word that you read straight from the book, think again. Reading to 30 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development babies looks and feels very different from reading to older children. The principal difference in reading to babies as opposed to older children is the way you interrelate using your voice and a baby book. This way of talking to newborns is called parentese. When parents are in intimate face-to-face contact with their babies, they speak in a singsongy, higher pitched, slower, louder voice. When reading, you’ll use the baby book primarily as a vehicle to converse and dialogue with your baby using your parentese voice. As we mentioned previously, you may use none, some, or all of the words in the book to have this kind of conversation. Studies show that beginning at around five weeks, babies prefer parentese, rather than regular adult conversation.3 Parentese is the best way for babies to hear and learn language. Studies show that it takes babies twice as long as adults to process information.4 With parentese you speak more slowly so babies can hear the individual sounds and words in the stream of speech. This helps them distinguish the unique rhythm of the language spoken in the home. Babies learn language best when parents speak with their parentese voices using face-to-face, personal, baby-directed talk. The more parentese talk babies hear before the age of two, the more words they’ll learn. A large vocabulary will lead to higher intelligence and academic achievement in school. Parentese aids in the process of learning the sounds, grammar, and structure of language, necessary for effective speaking, reading, and writing. Main Features of Parentese5 When speaking or reading to their babies, parents: • • • • • • • • • • • Put their faces very close to the baby’s face Use shorter utterances Speak in a melodious tone Articulate clearly Vary and raise their pitch Frequently use repetition Use exaggerated facial expressions (eye contact, raising of eyebrows, and big smiles) Move their bodies rhythmically Lengthen vowels (soooooo cuuuuuute) Use shorter sentences Use longer pauses Photo by Linda Posnick. Eight Baby Read-Aloud Basics 31 Parents all over the world speak an intimate form of baby-directed talk, called parentese. • Put unfamiliar words at the ends of sentences for stress (‘‘Gavin, look over there at the bulldozer!’’) • Give positive feedback and loving attention (in response to a babble, ‘‘That’s right, look at all those flowers!’’). See demonstrations of parents reading to their babies in Chapters 4 to 9. What Is the Difference Between Parentese and Baby Talk? Parentese is not baby talk, though what some people mean by baby talk is actually parentese. Baby talk is the actual altering of the spelling of the words to utterances bordering on nonsense. It can turn a sentence like, ‘‘Look at the cute little baby’’ into ‘‘Wook at zu coot wittle babykins.’’ It is very distorted and would actually delay infant language development if that is what babies usually heard. Some parents might even feel uncomfortable speaking parentese, because they are not used to using it, or they may think their newborns can’t understand, so why bother? Newborns can’t yet understand. Babies need exposure to language from day one to eventually understand. But first they need to be immersed in words to hear the tone and rhythm of their language. Listening 32 Why Baby Read-Alouds Beneﬁt Your Baby’s Language Development in the first few months of life is a key building block in the formation of good language. Parentese helps babies hear and learn their parent’s language. Parents will find that speaking parentese is part of the natural bonding process. In fact, many parents may not even realize they are using their voice in this new way. How Does the Use of Parentese Change from Infancy to Age Two? Along with parentese, the other two main features of reading to babies are dialogue (or conversing with babies) and questioning. For newborns, dialogue occurs when they respond to read-alouds by moving their hands or feet, cooing, breathing faster, or giving you some bodily signal of response and pleasure. After you talk and read a little, allow your baby time to respond in some of these ways. Then respond to her by talking some more. For example, when your baby starts moving her arms or legs as you read and look at a page with a bright yellow duck, you might say in your singsongy voice, ‘‘You like that page because it’s about that cute little yellow duck like the one you have.’’ Dialoguing in this way feels natural. Trying to read the book straight through without responding to your baby feels unnatural. Try it both ways, and you’ll see for yourself. You’re teaching your baby the turn taking of communication while giving her a constant stream of words, so necessary for language development. It’s also so much more; it’s an intimate bonding through words that uniquely happens in the act of reading, talking, and cuddling. The books parents select and the way they read them will change from the baby’s birth to age two. For example, the book that you read to your baby in infancy will be read differently at eighteen months. At birth, parents will read in a more rhythmic way with fewer interruptions that gives the sense of the flow of the language. This is why parents traditionally read nursery rhymes to new babies. As baby’s vision develops between two and four months, parents can use their parentese voice to direct baby’s attention to books that have brightly colored illustrations. When babies start cooing and babbling, your parentese will include uttering and dramatizing the sounds in baby’s environment like trains (choo, choo) or animals (wuff, wuff ), for example. At about three months, parents begin asking questions (see demonstrations of parents reading to their babies in Chapters 3 to 8). Questioning is good for babies because it is a direct verbal link to your baby, and helps you connect with his needs. As baby develops, it keeps her attention, and pulls her into the dialogue, especially before she can verbally respond. Later it helps toddlers develop problem-solving skills and encourages them to think and to ponder. When your baby is around a year old, you’ll start emphasizing the meaning of vocabulary words in books that are part of baby’s daily experiences. As she becomes more social, you will use books to teach daily social interaction phrases, such as ‘‘thank you,’’ ‘‘hello,’’ and ‘‘goodbye.’’ Your parentese will also include hand and facial gestures. You will be talking as much as reading when reading books that correspond to baby’s experiences, such as going to the zoo, or looking at cars and trucks. As your baby turns into an independent toddler, your parentese will include repeated readings of books that require you to creatively animate the story in new ways. For example, you may find yourself on the floor slithering like a snake or hopping like a kangaroo! Your tod- Read-aloud routines include time for dler will now be able to mimic cuddling and closeness. many of your gestures, as well as invent some of her own. She can verbally give one- or two-word answers to your questions about locating different animals or objects in books. By reading hundreds of books over the first two years using your animated parentese voice, your toddler understands many more words than she can presently say. She has most of the prerequisites to becoming a successful reader. You don’t have to incorporate all of the above basics to begin. You’ll find that you naturally read to your baby using many of the above principles such as intimately cuddling your baby and practicing parentese. As you become more experienced reading to your baby, you can gradually include more of the principles, ideas, and tips presented here and in Parts II and III of Baby Read-Aloud Basics. The read-aloud journey with your baby will bring hundreds of hours of enjoyment and benefits for many years to come. So don’t let another day go by without reading to your baby! Photo by Linda Posnick. Eight Baby Read-Aloud Basics 33 This page intentionally left blank PA RT II The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages This page intentionally left blank We have divided the ages from birth to two into six stages, based on language and physical development. The following ‘‘Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages’’ chart will help you see how your baby’s relationship to books will change over time. Each of the six stages can be characterized by the name given to the stage. The names of the six stages reveal at a glance your baby’s developmental journey toward becoming a talker, and eventually a reader: the Listener, the Observer, the Cooer, the Babbler, the Word Maker, and the Phrase Maker. Each stage on the chart lists the types of books parents may consider for reading aloud. Having this chart available at the library or bookstore will help you choose books that match the developmental characteristics of your baby. Chapters 3 to 8 correspond to each stage, and give parents specific guidance on how to read to their babies. These chapters provide parents with the following information: • Introduction to the stage • Language and physical milestones: listening, verbal, visual, motor • Step-by-step read-aloud instructions: how to position baby, parentese, challenges • Read-aloud demonstration of a parent reading to baby • What to notice in the read-aloud demonstration • Types of books for the stage • Baby book reviews at a glance—with parentese tips and illustration talking points 37 38 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages: From Birth to Two Stage 1 The Listener Months Language and Physical Characteristics of Baby1 Types of Books to Read 0–2 • Is more responsive to rhymes and stories heard before birth. • Books with nursery rhymes • Books/rhymes read before birth • Recognizes mother’s voice and prefers it to other adult voices. • Anything for the purpose of baby hearing your comforting voice Chapter 3 Stage 2 The Observer 2–4 • Begins to synchronize movements of eyes and seek out certain features of the environment, such as mobiles, checkerboard patterns, and bright, contrasting colors. Chapter 4 Stage 3 The Cooer • Responds more positively to “parentese” (see Chapter 2) than regular speech tone. 4–8 • Recognizes own name at four months. • Can distinguish between the happy, sad, or angry tones of a parent’s voice. Chapter 5 • Can tell the difference between the language spoken at home and other languages. • Absorbs and memorizes large numbers of sounds and words that will form the foundation of later speech. • Books with rhymes and songs • Bold color or blackand-white picture books • Homemade books about baby with family and friends • Books that stimulate senses, touchand-feel books • Teething books • Books with illustrations that are engaging and well matched to the text The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages 39 • At six or seven months begins to make sounds that resemble real language––mamama, dadada. • Can see colors and details clearly. • Likes to examine different features and textures of objects with hands and mouth. Stage 4 The Babbler Chapter 6 8–12 • Understands (but cannot yet say) an average of ﬁfty words at twelve months. • Is developing ability to remember language that is heard repetitively from books or routines with parents. • Books containing words and pictures about daily routines, such as bathing, eating, and sleeping • Books that label objects, toys, and parts of the body. • Stage 2 books • Homemade books about baby’s ﬁrst birthday • Books that encourage toddlers to chime in and repeat a word or phrase • Can say most speech sounds. • Word books that label objects, toys, and parts of body • Is beginning to make words at 10 months but will continue to babble beyond ﬁrst year. • Books that explore concepts, such as inside, outside, under, after, next • Dialogues by gesturing, pointing, and verbalizing. • Books that illustrate action words, such as running and jumping • Makes animal sounds instead of saying the animal name. • Has fully developed color, detail, and depth perception. • Has increasing control of hand movements. Will turn pages and point to pictures as you read. • Books with ﬂaps and noise buttons • Stage 2 and 3 books 40 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages Stage 5 The Word Maker Chapter 7 Months Language and Physical Characteristics of Baby Types of Books to Read 12–18 • Can say an average of forty words at sixteen months. Understands 100–150 words. • Books that reﬂect your toddler’s experiences, such as making a peanut butter sandwich, playing with a balloon, or putting on rain or snow gear • Uses a word in different contexts. For example, will say “duck” when he sees his rubber duckie in the bathtub, a picture of a duck in a book, or a real duck in a pond. • Uses a variety of intonation patterns when babbling or trying to speak. • Responds to your questions with pointing, body language, sounds, and some words in an attempt to have a conversation. • Memory is aided by the combination of rhymes or songs with movement, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” • Wants to do what he sees a parent doing: sweep the ﬂoor, give the dog a treat, or get a book and read it. • Crawls, climbs, and walks. Can crawl or walk to the bookcase and select favorite books. • Homemade books about routines and experiences using photos, drawings, or cutouts from catalogues or magazines • Books that use phrases such as good-bye, thank you • Books that ask questions • Books with simple narrative structure, strong characters, events, and resolutions • Books with rhymes and songs accompanied by hand movements • Books with one or two lines of rhythmic language on each page • Stage 2, 3, and 4 books The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages 41 Stage 6 The Phrase Maker Chapter 8 18–24 • Understands about 200 words. Can say an average of 50–170 words. • Books about your toddler’s current interests • Imitates expressions such as “Oh, oh!” • Books with interesting language that is just a little beyond the toddler’s conversational language • Begins to combine nouns and verbs to make twoword phrases or sentences. • Begins to ask, “What’s that?” Knows that objects have names. Can name family members. • Surge of mental development at this age results in the ability to think, reason, and speak words more clearly. There is also an increase in physical ability: toddler runs faster, turns knobs, and turns pages in a book, one at a time. • Learns the structure of language, such as how to form a question and the proper word order of sentences. • Captivated by the intricate, detailed illustrations in books like those of Richard Scarry. • Books that include hand and body movements • Books with numbers, colors, and vocabulary concepts • Books with longer stories and more complicated rhymes and alliteration • Books that show various feelings (happy, sad, angry, jealous) • Stage 2, 3, 4, and 5 books This page intentionally left blank S T A G E 1 CHAPTER 3 Stage 1: The Listener Introducing Books Before Birth and from Birth to Two Months Amidst all the excitement and overwhelming emotions that surround the first hours after birth, you may find a few moments to introduce your baby to a short, soothing, rhyming book, like Time for Bed by Mem Fox. Why begin to read to your baby so soon? Your baby has heard his parents’ voices for a good portion of your pregnancy. You may have even read to him before birth. If so, you might want to select the same book to read after birth as you read before birth. Your baby will be calmed and reassured as he listens to the sound of your voices, especially if you read the same book you read several times before birth. Reading to a Newborn The number one reason to read to baby soon after birth is to make your baby feel comfortable and loved in your undivided attention. The second reason is to begin a routine that will become a habit for both you and baby that will last for years to come. The third reason is to get dad involved in a key part of baby’s brain and emotional development right from the start. Dad’s participation in baby’s daily reading routine not only will help baby develop good language, but will promote a close bond between father and baby. In infancy, the first building block of literacy that is being developed is 43 44 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages Photo by Linda Posnick. S T A G E 1 the ability to listen; thus we call this stage, between birth and two months, The Listener. The ability to listen will develop throughout your child’s preschool years and will be the key to learning throughout life. Language is the principal medium through which most education is transmitted. Hearing is the most important sense because language development and learning depend on it. When Is the Best Time to Read to a Newborn? You can read just about any time. You can even read while baby is asleep because there is no difference between the brainwaves of a newborn who is asleep and one who is awake.1 At birth, although it may appear that your baby is asleep, he can hear and be stimulated by sounds. So you may read and talk to your baby, even if he is asleep. Once you and your baby get accustomed to nursing, you will sometimes be able to read during nursing. As your baby matures, at around two or three months, you’ll be reading during his alert, awake times. When Will Parents Know Their Baby Is Responding to Read-Alouds? After a few weeks you’ll begin to notice that your baby responds with body movements when you talk and read to him. When parents talk directly Stage 1: The Listener 45 to their infant, he can move his legs and arms in synchrony with their speech. When you read to your baby, observe his arms and legs as you read. At this stage, reading Mother Goose rhymes or other poems with rhythm, alliteration, and rhyming words might elicit a bodily response in the form of a very alert look. Repeatedly reading the same or similar poetry for the first month of life will create brain connections (synapses) that positively affect your baby’s language development. If parents keep a journal of baby’s development, it’s instructive to notice baby’s reactions to Dad continues reading as infant falls being read to. The first month asleep. they may just be calmed. The second month you’ll notice their alertness and their visual attraction to bold picture designs. By the third month, they are so accustomed to the reading routine, they expect to be read to, and wiggle their arms and legs in anticipation as you read with expression. Adding photos to your read-aloud journal, including the names of books you read, will make a wonderful gift for your child when he grows up or something for your child to share in kindergarten and first grade. This will be visual proof of your gift of literacy to your child. The real proof will be your child’s reading and writing ability, extensive vocabulary, and love of learning. Since baby’s head needs to be supported, it’s tricky to hold a book and a baby at the same time. Be sure you and baby are comfortable, whether you’re in bed or in a chair or nursing rocker. Because of brain and head size, humans are born earlier and less developed than other mammals. This means that for a couple of months after birth, human infants need to be sheltered from overstimulation in the form of too many loud noises. It’s best to talk to your baby without the disturbances of other background noise such as the television. Reading or talking to your baby in a dimly lit, quiet environment is best. Protect your baby from extensive, unhelpful noises. Noises that are too loud can actually damage your baby’s hearing. Some everyday noises such as average traffic, a power lawn mower, or an alarm clock are too loud for your baby. S T A G E 1 46 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages What Kinds of Things Should We Read to Our Newborn? S T A G E 1 From birth to two months, parents can read aloud anything they like. The main point of reading to your baby at this stage is to allow baby to hear the mellifluous tones of your voice. You can read straight from the text, whether it is a magazine or Mother Goose rhymes. If your baby has fallen asleep, he will love the closeness and security of your voice, which he knows well since before birth. Even at birth, when you begin reading every day, baby will get used to it, and expect it as part of her daily routine. At the very beginning, there is no special way to read. All you have to do is read any way you like and notice When this baby is born he will be familiar your baby’s reactions. Does your with dad’s voice because baby will have baby seem to prefer certain tones been read to regularly before birth. of voice? Or a book that you may have read aloud before birth? Begin at birth to observe your baby’s responses when you read, and you will notice the subtle ways newborns absorb everything you say. As your baby grows, your observations will give you clues to the best books and ways to read aloud. Reading to Your Baby Before Birth We could have created another stage, called the Listener Before Birth, because the auditory system is fairly well developed by the sixth month of pregnancy. Your baby can hear your voice as well as music and other sounds in the womb. In fact, listening to outside stimuli while in the womb is necessary for good auditory development. Studies show that after birth babies recognize specific books, rhymes, or music heard in the womb before birth. These familiar sounds are emotionally comforting to babies. Reading to your baby before birth is good for both you and your baby, as it not only prepares his brain for language and learning, but helps you get into the readaloud routine as well. Stage 1: The Listener 47 It’s not too early to start your reading routine before the big day—but remember it’s also never too late to start! Whether you are in your sixth month of pregnancy or your baby is six months old, use the stages (Chapters 3 to 8) to begin reading to your baby today. How One Mother Calmed Her Baby Before and After Birth by Reading to Him One mother told us that when she was about five months pregnant with her son who is now a teenager, she felt a great deal of discomfort when he began kicking. She noticed that when she read something aloud, the kicking would stop. So she read to her baby in utero every time he started kicking. After the birth of her baby, she noticed that when he became agitated or started to cry, he felt comforted by the sound of her voice. Needless to say, this mother continued reading until her son learned to read. He has always been at the top of his class and loves to read. How a Father Calmed His Baby with His Voice Minutes After Birth The day Brandon was born, as recalled by Grandma: I was assigned to video Brandon’s birth. His mother, who had an epidural, looked happy and regal and beautiful right up until the pushing began. Dad was close beside her, announcing contractions and encouraging her to push. Then, a little black head appeared, followed by a slippery red body all curled up. After what seemed an eternity, Brandon began to wail. The nurse whisked him away to a receiving station under a little heat lamp and began cleaning him up. I was so filled with emotion, I set the video camera down to wipe my eyes. Dad kissed mom and asked if he could go meet his son who continued to let out gusty wails. She excused dad, and as he leaned in to see his newborn son, dad said, ‘‘Hi, Brandon, it’s your dad.’’ In mid wail, the baby stopped crying and gazed up into the face of his dad who went on to say, ‘‘Remember when I read to you in mommy’s tummy? Do you remember we read Green Eggs and Ham?’’ All the tension in Brandon’s little body seemed to drain out as he hung on dad’s every word. It was the most precious moment, and everyone in the room remembers it to this day. There was no question that the baby was reassured by hearing the voice of his dad, who had S T A G E 1 48 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages S T A G E 1 sent loving messages to him in the womb almost from the time he was conceived. The baby seemed to be saying, ‘‘Oh, there you are. It’s you!’’ We all continue to read to Brandon, who is now three. He has favorite books and snuggles up to be read to at least a couple of times a day. Going to the library to pick out new books is a favorite activity. Characteristics: Birth to Two Months Listening • Startled by unexpected noises • Will turn his head in the direction of a caregiver’s voice • Recognizes mother’s voice and prefers it to the sounds of other adult voices • Remembers and is calmed by rhymes, stories, and music heard before he was born • Is able to identify the rhythm, tones, and sounds of his parents’ language within the first week • Can hear lower-tone voices and sounds better than higher tones • Can’t discriminate sounds like mom’s reading voice if there is background noise like other loud voices or the television Verbal • Communicates needs by crying Visual • • • • • Has limited vision, and can only see objects eight to ten inches away Has poor color vision Prefers to look at a human face, especially mother’s Sees black-and-white designs or photos Imitates the movements of his mother’s mouth and tongue forty-five minutes after birth • Has no binocular vision or depth perception • Relies mostly on peripheral vision • Can’t detect small visual details Motor • Sleeps 75 percent of the time • Has mostly reflexive movements, such as sucking or grasping Stage 1: The Listener 49 • Moves body in synchrony with adult speech; coordinates his arms and legs and moves them at the speed and rhythm of what he hears • Can form a grin (beginning smile) in response to faces at three weeks • Turns toward or away from a person or event Step-by-Step Read-Aloud Instructions: Birth to Two Months Select a book from the recommended list at the end of this chapter. How to hold baby—getting ready • Choose a time and place that is quiet and free of distracting noises. • Select whatever you want to read: rhyming books, your favorite parenting magazines, or the newspaper. • Make yourself comfortable with your baby in your rocker or glider with a boppy (nursing pillow), in bed propped up with pillows, or on the couch. • Read for a few minutes at least twice a day when your baby is alert and has been fed. You can also read while you are nursing. You may also continue reading if your baby falls asleep. • If you have other children, read what they like while you are holding your baby. • When your newborn opens his eyes, hold him close to you (eight to ten inches) so he can look at your face as you read. Parentese interaction • Try to vary the pace, phrasing, voice rhythms, and pitch, emphasizing certain words (see discussion of ‘‘parentese’’ in Chapter 2). • Observe how your baby’s movements synchronize with your voice when you read. Challenges • Finding the right time to read when baby is comfortable. Fussiness is sometimes caused by baby’s immature digestive system. Changing position, burping, or waiting a few minutes can alleviate discomfort, and then you can resume reading. • Finding time to read when you do not have to do other things. Try reading to the baby while nursing. S T A G E 1 50 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages S T A G E 1 • Holding baby in a way that supports his head and book at same time. Try using pillows, or laying the baby next to you on a bed. • Feeling silly reading to what appears to be an unresponsive baby. It helps to interject talking to your baby while reading, as if you are having a personal conversation (see Read-Aloud Demonstration below of father reading to his six-week-old baby). • Your baby falls asleep. You may continue to read. • Your baby gets easily distracted. Make sure that background noise is limited by turning off the television, lowering volume of music, and keeping other voices at a minimum. Read-Aloud Demonstration: Father Reading to His Six-Week-Old Baby This six-week-old baby already has a read-aloud routine. After being nursed, dad changes her diaper, and takes her to their favorite read-aloud chair. Dad enjoys reading his daughter nursery rhymes, and he makes sure that she knows that what he is reading is especially for her. Before, during, and after reading the rhymes, Dad tells his baby what rhyme he is reading and says, ‘‘This is for you, Little P.’’ (Dad called baby ‘‘Little P’’ while she was in utero; it stood for ‘‘Little Person,’’ since he did not know sex or name of baby, and he continued to call her that for a while after she was born.) He is aware of her colicky stomach discomfort but he continues reading because she is used to it and is actually soothed and comforted by it. (The italicized words indicate the rhymes dad reads. The rest is a ‘‘conversation’’ using parentese. He adds his own words to the text in order to lovingly interact with his baby.) Dad: Are you ready? This one is for Kaia (the name of his baby girl). ‘‘The Cat and the Fiddle’’ Hey diddle, diddle, Stage 1: The Listener 51 The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon; The little dog laughed (Dad laughs in response to baby’s grunting noises. Then he finishes the rhyme and continues reading.) Hey, ‘‘Little P.’’ Let’s try this one again, when you are not pooping. (Dad reads the same rhyme again. He reads slowly, pausing and enunciating clearly.) Let’s try ‘‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.’’ Baa, baa, black sheep, Have you any wool? (Dad continues reading the rhyme as baby looks back and forth from the book to his face.) Let’s read this one. ‘‘Diddle, Diddle, Dumpling’’ Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John (Dad finishes that rhyme and continues reading ‘‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall’’ and ‘‘Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater.’’) Let’s read ‘‘Lucy Locket,’’ Sweet P. (Baby gurgles and starts grunting again. Dad continues reading ‘‘Lucy Locket.’’) Listen, Sweet P. ‘‘Jack Be Nimble’’ Jack be Nimble Jack be quick (Baby is uncomfortable. She squirms and grunts as she appears to be having a bowel movement. Grandma interjects, ‘‘Do you think she’s tired? Has she had enough?’’ To which dad responds, ‘‘No, she is just pooping, so she’s uncomfortable.’’ He keeps reading.) Jack jumped over The candle stick. (Dad reads ‘‘Little Bo-Peep’’ and ‘‘Sing a Song of Sixpence.’’) Want to hear this one, Little P? There Was a Little Girl. S T A G E 1 52 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages (Dad reads the rhyme as baby calmly listens.) S T A G E 1 What do you think about that, Little P? (Dad continues reading one more rhyme after baby falls asleep.)2 What to Notice in the Read-Aloud Demonstrations Notice how the father: • Holds baby during their reading time. At this young age babies are very flexible and are comfortable in a variety of positions. At this stage babies don’t need to see the book. However, if positioned near parent’s face, some babies will look intently at parent’s face as they listen to parent read. • Reads from the text and then adds a few comments on the side. ‘‘OK this one is for Kaia. OK let’s try this one again, Little P.’’ • Follows his baby’s lead. He keeps reading, although his baby seems fussy. Grandma asks if they should stop since the baby seems uncomfortable, to which dad responds, ‘‘No, she’s fine; she’s just pooping.’’ Dad’s voice is actually soothing to her during her typical baby digestive discomforts. • Reads rhymes because their rhyme and rhythm are soothing to baby’s ears. • Cuddles and creates a closeness, which will become part of their daily reading routine. • Continues to read even though baby falls asleep. Dad’s voice soothed baby to sleep. She can still hear his soothing voice. Characteristics of Stage 1 Books Even if you read to your baby before birth, it’s a thrill to read aloud for the first time after birth. It’s an occasion that merits a photograph for baby’s album so that when your baby is grown, he’ll see that you wasted no time in giving him the gift of language and the love of reading. Although newborns’ limited range of vision allows them to look at bright, bold patterns, the most effective books for this stage feature rhymes or pages Stage 1: The Listener 53 filled with chantable rhythms so your baby can hear your voice. Having heard you in utero, your baby feels comfortable and secure when you speak. Any children’s book you particularly like will probably be welcomed by your newborn. Some books with nursery rhymes or titles like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom may become favorites for the next few years. Recommended Types of Books: Birth to Two Months • • • • • Books with rhymes Books read aloud before baby was born Your favorite children’s books Board books with black-and-white patterns Any reading matter of interest to you Baby Book Reviews at-aGlance: With Parentese Tips and Illustration Talking Points Tomie’s Little Mother Goose Tomie dePaola Board book G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 32 pages, 1997 Mother Goose books come in a Hours after birth in the hospital room, variety of formats and have been newborn listens to his first read-aloud, a routine already established with his older illustrated by various artists. One brother. of our favorites is Tomie dePaola’s version. Your newborn will love the sound of your voice as you read, sing, or chant many favorite Mother Goose rhymes. Tomie dePaola is a prolific author-illustrator, a favorite among preschool and primary school teachers. You might look for other editions of dePaola’s Mother Goose rhymes in a lightweight paperback book. PARENTESE TIPS AND TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS: • You could start with the familiar ‘‘This little pig went to market.’’ While touching each of baby’s toes, you can change the tone and vol- S T A G E 1 54 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages S T A G E 1 ume of your voice with each line, and then squeak out ‘‘and this little pig cried wee-wee,’’ and so on. • What responses can you observe in a newborn? Depending on your infant baby’s waking or sleeping state, you may see that your baby appears alert, or that he moves in synchrony with your speech. Responses may be very subtle at first. But know that every word you speak to your precious newborn is being registered in baby’s active, growing brain. The more you are tuned in to your baby, the more you’ll notice. How A Baby Grows Nola Buck, illustrated by Pamela Paparone Board book Harper Festival, 14 pages, 1998 This book achieves two things: It gives your baby a nice rhyme to hear while you are helping teach your older child what to expect from his newborn sibling. The book tells what baby does, sees, needs, the way he speaks, the things he hears, what he shares and knows, and how he grows. The illustrations are clear and colorful, and good for baby or toddler. Your toddler at one or one-and-a-half may also like this book, as many toddlers enjoy books about babies. PARENTESE TIPS AND TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS: • If you bring baby’s older sibling to the hospital for a peek at new baby, gather your family around you while holding your newborn and read page one. Use the text as a starting point to explain to an older sibling what babies do, like crying and the need for diaper changing and so on. Older children may not understand that babies communicate by crying. You can have a conversation with baby’s sibling(s) about crying, and when to expect it. • During all this conversation, you can look at your infant, and say something like, ‘‘We’re telling your brother (or sister) all about you. We are so happy you are here. We’ll have so much fun reading together.’’ Your older child, even if he can’t read, might want to make up the words to the pictures, and ‘‘read’’ to your infant. Stage 1: The Listener 55 The Baby’s Lap Book Kay Chorao Hardcover Dutton Children’s Books, 58 pages, 1990 We love this book because of the sweet, happy illustrations and the many traditional nursery rhymes that many parents heard from their parents. These nursery rhymes are part of the European tradition handed down for gener- Book cover: The Baby’s Lap Book ations. Every culture has its own version in its own language. Maintain your family’s traditions by singing, chanting, or saying your own nursery rhymes in your native language. As your child grows, nursery rhymes form a staple of lyrical language, content, and beloved memories found nowhere else. (This is the book used in the demonstration of father reading to his baby earlier in this chapter.) PARENTESE TIPS AND TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS: • Start with rhymes you know and are comfortable with, like ‘‘Pat-ACake.’’ Though your baby is still too young to participate, you can clap your hands and move rhythmically, observing your baby watch your every move. Soon he will be like the toddler in the illustration, clapping with you. • Sing the familiar ‘‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,’’ or chant ‘‘It’s Raining, it’s Pouring.’’ Your newborn will love the sound of your voice. He will look at your mouth and face with total absorption. Time for Bed Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer Board book, lap-sized board book Harcourt, 27 pages, 1997 You can start reading this lyrical book even before birth and continue through the toddler years. The gentle rhymes about mother animals and their babies are sure to have a soporific effect on your baby. We recommend that you Book cover: Time for Bed S T A G E 1 56 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages S T A G E 1 pack this compact little board book with your things to take to the hospital to read the day your baby is born. Mem Fox is one of the world’s greatest authors of children’s books for all ages. As your baby grows, he will enjoy her many other titles. PARENTESE TIPS AND TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS: • For a newborn, there are several ways you can read this book. You can read it straight through in a regular voice while your baby is either awake or asleep. • You can also start at the first page with the intention of trying out your ‘‘parentese’’ through the voices of the animals. After reading, ‘‘It’s time for bed, little mouse, little mouse, darkness is falling all over the house,’’ you can interject something like, ‘‘Can you hear the little baby mouse go squeak, squeak, squeak?’’ in a squeaky voice. Here you are already starting questioning, and you’re using an expressive voice to get and maintain baby’s attention. You can ask similar questions and make animal noises all the way through the book. In this way, you are already dialoguing with baby and giving him the opportunity to hear many, many more words than just those provided by the book. Fingerplays and Songs for the Very Young Illustrated by Carolyn Croll Board book Random House, 22 pages, 2001 This book will be your ‘‘ace in the hole’’ throughout your baby’s first two years. It gives you beautifully illustrated, well-known rhymes, songs, and directions for finger and hand motions. Your baby craves such active attention. Such classics as ‘‘Pat-a-Cake,’’ ‘‘Open, Shut Them,’’ ‘‘This Little Piggy,’’ ‘‘Ring Around the Rosie,’’ and ‘‘Wheels on the Bus’’ will keep your baby enchanted. No baby should be without the experience of classic finger play rhymes. They are part of the formation of your child’s literacy. If you can’t find this book, look for other books that give you instructions under each rhyme on what to do with baby’s hands, feet, or body. Books with finger plays for infants are different than those for preschoolers. The instructions for older toddlers teach them how to do the hand motions. For infants, Stage 1: The Listener 57 parents will need to manipulate their baby’s fingers or toes, etc. For example, for a familiar rhyme like ‘‘This Little Piggy,’’ parents would gently grasp each of baby’s toes and wiggle them while chanting the rhyme. PARENTESE TIPS AND TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS: • For newborns, we especially recommend ‘‘Shoe the Little Horse,’’ ‘‘This Little Piggy,’’ and ‘‘Cobbler, Cobbler.’’ Each of these rhymes has instructions that involve patting or holding baby’s feet or toes while looking into baby’s eyes. In infancy, playing with baby’s feet is easy and gentle. • Every rhyme tells you exactly what to do while chanting the rhyme. You can place the book on the bed next to your baby so you can read the rhyme and directions while holding baby’s feet. Hippety-Hop Hippety-Hay: Growing with Rhymes from Birth to Age Three Opal Dunn, illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert Hardcover Henry Holt and Company, 46 pages, 1999 This book is divided into developmental stages that are similar to those in Baby Read-Aloud Basics. The poems were written for the youngest babies through age three, making the selection process easy for parents. Parents tell us that the brevity of the rhymes holds baby’s attention. Most of the poems and songs include actions using your hands or fingers, a feature babies love. The attractive illustrations show parents going through the motions described in the poems. Some of the rhymes are set to folk melodies whose musical notations are included in the back of the book. We recommend this book as a perfect choice for a shower gift, because it shows parents how to read the poems and discusses the importance of starting a reading routine from birth. Also look for Opal Dunn’s new book, Number Rhymes to Say and Play, available in paperback. PARENTESE TIPS AND TALKING POINTS ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATIONS: • For infancy, the first pages include rhymes that encourage you to touch your baby as you talk: S T A G E 1 58 The Six Baby Read-Aloud Stages S T A G E 1 These are baby’s fingers These are baby’s toes This is baby’s belly button Round and round it goes. • Other poems encourage you to sing or chant. How your baby will love listening to your voice reciting these verses over and over again! Repetition is good for your baby’s brain, and it’s also comforting. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert Hardcover Simon and Schuster, 30 pages, 1989 Why do we recommend an alphabet book for a newborn?