Setting up your child for success in life
Reading begins at birth and can propel learning
Feed baby; check. Burp baby; check. Change her diaper. Read one of her books to her. Experts say it’s never too early to start reading to your infant. In fact, books and reading are an investment that will pay off when your child gets to school.
“Learning to read doesn’t start in grade one, it starts at birth,” says Dariel Bateman of Calgary Reads, a literacy group that helps struggling readers in grades one and two. “Up until six or eight months, you could be reading a newspaper, or a magazine or Virginia Woolf or whatever you want,” says Bateman. “Reading, talking, chanting, singing, cooing; it’s all how kids begin to develop the notion of sound, and that the sound means something.”
When babies get a little older, around nine months, you can trade in the newspaper for a soft baby book and settle in, snuggle up and spend time reading to your child. “It’s really foundational in terms of children accessing and learning language,” says Christopher Smith, the assistant executive director of the Muttart Foundation, which just published a discussion paper on early childhood education.
“Children in families where someone will just sit and spend time with them are exposed to language, and they have a much greater facility in terms of hearing sounds and putting sounds together to make words, and then putting words together to make sentences,” he says.
Books and reading also foster conversation, ignite the imagination, pave the way for more formal learning and build “pre-literacy.”
Pre-literacy is crucial for success in school. “When kids don’t have that foundation for literacy they’re starting way behind the eight ball when they start the formal process of acquiring reading,” Bateman says.
Reading to your children from infancy on will not only get them comfortable with words and symbols and help them understand they have meaning, Smith says, but it will also help develop the emotional and cognitive skills they need to focus in the classroom.
No one expects your kids to be reading when they start kindergarten (or earlier), but being versed in pre-literacy means they will likely know their letters and might be able to write their name on their first day of school, skills that will help guarantee their success in the school days to follow.
— Jennifer Allford
Reading isn’t just for bedtime. Take the opportunity to read to your children at the dentist’s office, riding the bus and anywhere in between. Calgary Reads suggests the following books.
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Baby Faces Roberta by Grobel Intrater
- Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
- The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round by Anthony Lewis.
- The Teddy Bears’ Picnic by Jimmy Kennedy
- Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- I’m Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
- I Have to Go by Robert Munsch
- In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc
- The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
- Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee and Frank Newfeld
You’ll find a virtually free and endless supply of books at your local library. For a complete listing of Alberta library locations, hours and lending terms, visit the Alberta Library.