This past June, the American Academy of Pediatrics published the results of a study that concluded that reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in a child’s development, which in turn builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. The article goes on to discuss the role of pediatric practitioners in encouraging parents to read to and with their young child.
We at the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) have been advocating this position for many years and have a wide array of programs and activities to encourage this interaction to include story times and special activity sessions at all our branches for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, all of which are listed on our website, www.pgcmls.info.
There are many simple activities parents can do with young children to promote early literacy and bonding. You and your child will have great fun with some of these simple, everyday activities, and remember that it is never too early to begin. Beginning at birth and during your child’s early years, crucial connections are formed and strengthened in the brain through repeated playful, loving and stimulating experiences. Each time you read a story, tickle a belly, sing a song or play peek-a-boo, connections are made between brain cells. Repetition makes the connections stronger, so sing that song again!
Some everyday activities to share with your babies include cuddling and reading together and talking about the books and pictures you read, going to the library for story time, keeping a basket of books in the baby’s play area, and telling stories during bath time and chanting verses such as “This Little Piggy” while tickling baby’s toes or chanting “Pat-a-Cake.” Also, play peek-a-boo, sing lullabies before bed time and nap time and always remember to repeat favorite activities and read favorite books over and over again.
Toddlers especially enjoy reading together every day, and be sure to let your toddler hold the book and turn pages. Talk about the book you have just read with your toddler and read his/her favorite books over and over. Take your toddler to the library to borrow books and for story time. Also tell a favorite story using a puppet; take a walk talking about what you see and reading signs as you go; and keep paper, crayons and markers available. Act out stories and nursery rhymes, and encourage your toddler to “read” or tell a story to his or her teddy bear. Tell real-life stories from when you were little and recite nursery rhymes together at nap time or while driving.
Encourage your toddler to talk about what he or she is doing. Put labels on objects around the house — the chair, the bed, etc. — and get ABC magnets or ABC books and find the letters of the toddler’s name. Be sure to set up a book shelf or book bin in your toddler’s room.
With preschoolers, continue to read together every day and ask questions that don’t have a yes or no answer. Take your preschooler to the library for story time, and let your child pick out some books to take home. Remember to read favorite books over and over. Take turns pointing out the first word on a page or line of a familiar book. Have your child dictate an email or letter and send or mail it, and write down a story your child tells to you and display it on the refrigerator. Keep paper, crayons and markers available and help your child tell a story using props and dramatic voices. Play word games together like “I see something that begins with…” or fill in the rhyme. Name the many things you see at a playground or the grocery store. Read cereal boxes, menus and street signs as you go through your day. Talk about events of the day during bath time. Make a snack together and talk about how to do it. Play pretend games together where your child becomes a doctor, truck driver or librarian. Make up new verses of familiar songs and rhymes like “Old MacDonald” or “Down by the Bay.” Set up a library shelf in your child’s room.
I hope some of these suggestions from the American Library Association and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System will be helpful to you as parents. Please check out the PGCMLS website for a list of appropriate books you can find in the library for each of these age groups.
Remember, you as parents can make the difference in a child’s love of books and reading that will last a lifetime.
Kathleen Teaze is director of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.