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Do Babies Need Books? Darn Right, They Do

  by Jeanne Duffey for Parent + Family
In This Review

Learn More About Reading: A Booklist Compiled by Springfield-Greene County Children Librarian Lori Mangan

Read It Aloud! A Parent’s Guide to Sharing Books with Young Children by Monty Haas and Laurie Joy Haas

Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy by Diane McGuinness

The Between the Lions Book for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Child Learn to Read by Linda K. Rath and Louise Kennedy

Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success by the National Research Council

 
 
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Do babies need books? Darn right they do, according to Dorothy Butler, who enjoys reading as often as she can to her 21 grandchildren.

Babies Need Books,” written by Butler, a teacher, bookseller and children’s literature advocate from New Zealand, is a passionate defense of the idea that books should be a vital part of infants’ lives—even in their first months—and a valuable reference guide on how to go about sharing the joy of books that, she believes, brings about early, long-lasting bonding and relationships.

“I believe that books should play a prominent part in children’s lives from babyhood; that access to books, through parents and other adults, greatly increases a child’s chances of becoming a happy and involved human being.

“It is my belief that there is no ‘parent’s aid’ which can compare with the book in its capacity to establish and maintain a relationship with a child. Its effects extend far beyond the covers of the actual book, and invade every aspect of life.

“Parents and children who share books come to share the same frame of reference. Incidents in everyday life constantly remind one or the other—or both, simultaneously—of a situation, a character, an action, from a jointly enjoyed book, with all the generation of warmth and well-being that is attendant upon such sharing.”

And the payoff to parents: That comes in adolescence when communication is essential to coping with real problems; through early reading, you’ve already established the habit of verbal give-and-take and a forging of relationships.

“This does not mean that problems won’t arise,” Butler said. “It merely means that the human beings concerned will have ways of coping with difficulties, ways which may lead to the deepening rather than the damaging of relationships.”

Books play a major role in this process: “Because by their very nature they are rooted in language, and because language is essential to human communication, and communication is the life blood of relationships, books matter.”

Tips for Reading to ‘Under-Ones’

  • Turn pages of a brightly illustrated book as you hold your baby.
  • Talk and point as you read aloud.
  • Run your fingers casually under the text as you read the words.
  • Try books featuring the alphabet, colors or numbers.
  • Gobble, growl and grunt as you read “noise” books.
  • And, don’t forget nursery rhymes and jingles!
  • To forestall grabbing, give your baby a rattle or other plaything.
  • Don’t make reading a chore; have fun with it.
 
-Jeanne Duffey is Community Relations Director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
   
 
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