Reading together for just 10–15 minutes every day will give your child an awareness of books and how they work, of letters and how they make up words, and help to build vocabulary. It is also a great bonding time. Make sure that your reading time is always fun — don’t make it a battle! If one of you isn’t in the mood, it’s ok to put a book down after a couple of pages and come back to it later.
For very young babies (under six months), high contrast board books with black and white or just a couple of colours are best, as colour perception isn’t fully developed at this point. Babies are drawn to faces, so books with lots of faces will be a hit. As they get older, you can explore other board books, which are sturdy with thick cardboard pages and are fairly baby-proof and baby-safe. Once your child has a slightly longer concentration span, perhaps around 10–12 months, you can move into picture books.
Not sure what to read with your child? Ask your friendly YPRL staff for some suggestions.
Your child needs to have lots of interaction and stimulus as their young brain develops, especially in their first year of life. Even while they’re babies, chatting to your child about things that happen and things that are around them increases their language skills. Just because they don’t answer doesn’t mean they’re not listening! As they get older, talking with you builds their confidence, their sentence structure, and their fluency.
You don’t need to be a good singer to sing with your child! They think you’re a rock star even if you’re completely out of tune. Singing offers lots of early literacy benefits including rhythm and repetition. When we sing simple songs, like nursery rhymes, we slow down our words and sound out each syllable. This helps very young children realise that the different sounds we make come together in different ways to become words. As they get older, the rhythm and repetition help them to remember short rhymes, build vocabulary, and speak more clearly.
Children love to play, and creative play is actually a key part of early literacy development that you can help with. Learning to tell a story — or narrative skill — comes through acting out the stories and rhymes that you know, telling stories with puppets or soft toys, and playing pretend games and dress ups. Talking through stories and games also improves speech fluency and vocabulary. Encourage imaginative and creative play every day, and join in when you can.