The Three Bears, by Byron Barton. A book that changed our lives. Wait a second, how can a papa bear, mama bear, baby bear and Goldilocks change someone’s life? Well, that’s exactly what it did. The bears helped us bond as a family, and Goldilocks enlightened us to stay away from other’s property, and always eat the porridge just right!.
I started reading to my daughter when she was three weeks old. Yeah, that got my mother upset, because she thought I was stressing the baby to focus, and quite simply why? What benefit? We had colic, reflux, sty in the eye ( a swelling in the eyelid just two days after birth) to name a few things to attend to. But, I had a mother who was inquisitive enough to know, how it benefited for real. We had a long discussion on its merits, and we were back to reading in full swing. Bright eyed and fascinated, listening to my voice, glancing at the colors, characters and following my gestures— my daughter was ultimately making the connections for her learning.
By connections, I mean the workings of our brain. In her book, Thirty Million Words, Dr. Dana Suskind writes “From birth through about three years of age, each second represents the creation, by the brain, of seven hundred to one thousand additional neuron connections. Let me run that number by you again: seven hundred to one thousand additional neurons every second of a baby’s life”. This means, that every second, these baby masterminds are absorbing information—through their senses like seeing, touching, smelling and hearing words. This lays a strong foundation that builds their memory, emotional development, motor skills—an action that requires your child to use his muscles like walking, running etc and obviously language.
However, it could make the brain go chaotic, because of way too much information entering the baby’s brain. But again, our smart brains fine-tune more or less, retains the things we hear on a regular basis and weeds out the rest. How astounding is that! I couldn’t help, but be in awe of the beauty of our brain and most importantly, the master engineer, our Creator.
Therefore, this critical period of brain development “slows” after three years of age. It means slow, not absent. Invariably, that’s the truth. So, invest your time and energies in creating an enriching and fulfilling environment for your child now, no matter the age. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting down to business!. And, that too to do fun stuff.
So, let’s proceed to my selection of books to kick-start the process , my ideal reading conditions and finally as promised, tips for a good reading session.
- Dear Zoo, Flap up book, by Rod Campbell.
- The Hungry Caterpillar, Hand puppet book, by Eric Carle.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?, by Bill Martin Jr/Eric Carle.
- Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown.
- Curious George, At the Zoo.
- Baby Touch, First Focus, Faces.
- The Three Bears, by Byron Barton. I would specifically ask you to get this one, because I was asked to, by one of the experts in the field of speech and language. During my working period, I had the privilege of training under Lois Kam Heymann. She is a veteran speech and language therapist based in New York and author of her book “Sound of Hope”. The reason being, the story was narrated in simple sentences, the pictures were clear, less distracting to babies and colorful with high contrast.
In fact, it is a good rule to keep in mind when you purchase books for your little ones. I’ve noticed it with my daughter, if someone gifts her a new book, I can immediately say if it interests her, because she will look at the pictures for a few seconds, flip through the pages and bring it me to read. But if there is a whole clutter of pictures, lots to read, heavy book (yes, I observed that) she will give it one glance and the book is shoved on the side. Out of sight, out of mind.
IDEAL READING CONDITIONS:
- Refer to my previous post –It takes two to Tango! on when to engage your baby.
- Keep your baby on your lap with the baby’s back and head, facing your stomach and chest respectively ( this is for babies ,who are yet to achieve head control) or you can use the baby’s bouncer ( an electronic rocker) without turning it on. I used a bouncer for my daughter, as she happily snugged into it. I sat down facing her ,so she can watch all the drama from my side!.
- Preferably, after a good feed.
- Diapers changed.
- Do it during baby’s happy hours. Every mom knows that.
- Find a spot that is free of distractions, like loud noises and bright lights.
NOW, comes the fun part. The reading session itself. I am excited to share with you, what exactly, I do with my daughter.
TIPS FOR GOOD READING:
- CHOOSE A BOOK– earlier, I chose a book for her. Now she is the boss.
- GET COMFORTABLE– she snuggles into my lap, and we are both facing the book open. I love this!.
- KEEP YOUR VOICE NEUTRAL– being loud can annoy your baby, and being soft can lose their attention. Might as well watch TV, than listen to Mama.
- GO SLOW– when you start reading, use your words clearly and read the sentences slowly. I do not mean, “Ooooonnnceeeee uppppon a tiiiieeemeeee” .It should be read at a pace when you don’t understand something, and you trace it back, read it clearly and try to make the connection in your brain. I do it when, someone asks me to explain something they read, and didn’t understand.
- IT’S ALL IN THE TITLE– I make a big deal about this. What the title of the story is, the pictures in the cover, the characters and the colors. In the beginning, your child may not respond, but in due time, you will be surprised to hear a word that you kept mentioning in the book. Voila!
- GET THAT EMOTIONS & ANIMATIONS FLOWING– I use a lot of intonation (the rise and fall of your speech). For e.g. Is that your car? It’s a question. Is that your car!. That sounds like you know it’s their car and you are excited about it. Therefore, when you read, go with the situation of the story. For e.g. When I read the Three Bears, Papa bear has a deep voice and he has a serious tone, Mama bear has my usual voice and baby bear has a tiny cute voice. Use happy, sad, angry, scared and surprised emotions when you read the story.
- USE GESTURES– use lots of pointing while you read the book. Take your baby’s tiny hands and place it on the pictures that you point.
- BE AN ACTION HERO– this is the funniest bit. For e.g.” When Goldilocks saw the bears, she jumped and ran as fast as she could”. Thanks to my husband, he used to jump and run when this part of the story came. This cracked us up and we had fun. But, the equally amazing part was when my daughter came to me and started making a gesture with both hands moving forward and a sound ‘huh..huh..huh’. I didn’t know what it was, until our action hero (my husband) cracked the code. He said “Is she showing the running and jumping action?”, I said “I don’t know”. When he repeated the action with the same vigor and enthusiasm. There she was, clapping and laughing.
Since then, we have been woken up countless times from our deeply loved and deprived sleeps, to succumb to her action requests. Hmmm.. isn’t that parenthood all about?
As Stephen king quotes “Books are uniquely portable magic”. No wonder, the United Arab Emirates dedicated 2016, as the”Year of Reading”. I couldn’t agree more to this, as reading to my daughter transformed her. She continues her love for books, and GOLDILOCKS holds a special place in her heart.
And then, Goldilocks makes a special appearance on her birthday cake.
Yes, She is AZAH, our beloved child.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. Please let me know about your reading experiences with your children.