Birth to Eighteen Months
Readers aren't born, they're made.
Desire is planted-planted by parents who work at it.
For children from birth to eighteen months, parents help build a solid foundation for future learning simply by cuddling and rocking their babies and singing and cooing to them. From birth on, infants are connected to human beings and prefer looking at faces over anything else in their environment. Babies respond joyfully to the sound of the human voice and love to hear "parent-ese." Experts in brain research stress that touch helps to build a baby's brain. Babies love to feel gentle touches on the arms, legs, tummy, and face. They notice and imitate facial expressions at just a few months of age. Begin talking to babies the moment they are born, listen to them babble and coo, and imitate the sounds they produce.
While children develop at somewhat different rates, experts offer overall milestones regarding literacy development. By twelve months, most children will sit on a parent's lap to share a book, reach for a nearby book, enjoy looking at pictures, and turn pages in board books with help from an adult.
By eighteen months, typically a child can hold a book with help, turn pages in a board book (usually several at a time), turn a book right side up, point to favorite pictures, and point to a picture of a familiar object when it's named. Children this age often carry a book to an adult, indicating they'd like to have it read.
Activities to Promote Oral Language and Vocabulary
*Carry on "conversations" with infants. Notice how they listen and respond during pauses. Show lots of facial expression, especially smiles, while playing with infants.
*Show babies items in their environment and name them. Name and talk about the cat, blanket, chair, and rug. This helps children to learn that everything has a name.
*Speak "parent-ese," talking with exaggerated changes in pitch and stretching out words.
*Play the bag game. Put six to eight small toys or household objects (larger than two to three inches to avoid choking potential) in a container. Try things like toy cars, wooden spoons, measuring spoons, and coasters. Allow your baby to pull items out and explore them. Tell her the name of the object and join in the play. Describe an action such as "I am putting the red coaster under the car."
Always follow your baby's lead, and don't force an activity. If your baby grows tired of a game, choose another one or stop for the time being.
*Pat-a-cake and peekaboo may seem like simple games, but brain researchers tell us that babies are learning a lot when they play them. Games are very important for wiring the brain; they promote cognitive growth by strengthening and making brain-cell connections.
*The most common way to play peekaboo is to cover your face with your hands and take them away, saying "Peekaboo, I see you!"
*You can also hold a blanket up between you and the baby, peeking out around the edge or dropping the top, and saying the magic words.
*Once they sit up, some babies like to have a small blanket tossed over their head so they can take it off to peek at you.
*To teach pat-a-cake, put your baby on your lap, hold his hands, and gently guide him through the actions as you recite the poem. He will enjoy showing off the new skill as the days go by. Here is one version of the rhyme:
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man
(Clap baby's hands gently together)
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
(Clap to the beat)
Roll it and pat it
(Roll hands, then pat the baby's stomach)
And mark it with a B
(Draw a B on baby's stomach)
And put it in the oven for baby and me
(Point to baby and to self)
Have fun. Remember that babies and young children learn through play.
Activities to Promote Your Child's Awareness of the Sounds of Language
*Encourage any activity that plays with sounds. Play peekaboo using scarves, puppets, or objects in bags. Vary the sounds you make as you say "peekaboo": "ah," "oo," "ee."
*Notice and imitate the rhythm of your baby's cooing.
*Create original verses about your baby's actions and set them to traditional tunes. For example, substitute "Here We Go to Grandmother's House" for "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush," or "Are You Crawling?" for "Are You Sleeping?"
*Choose one or two rhymes to croon to your baby before bedtime. She will begin to associate that rhyme with getting sleepy.
Recommended Nursery Rhyme and Fingerplay Books
A book of nursery rhymes makes an ideal baby-shower gift, ensuring that parents will have something to read to their newborn, moving straight into the habit of reading aloud. Nursery rhymes-often called Mother Goose rhymes-have been around for hundreds of years and suit young children perfectly thanks to their brevity and irresistible rhythms. Even if you don't remember any from your childhood, you'll soon memorize some of these quick verses and can use them to entertain your child at any time of day. The following list suggests some wonderful collections as well as some single rhymes illustrated with inviting pictures.
Some rhymes, dubbed fingerplays, have finger, hand, or body movements that go with them. While you might already know pat-a-cake or "This Little Piggy," collections on this list will give you new ideas and lead to new favorites. Start by performing the fingerplays for your infant and note the delight on his face. Then, as he gets a bit older, your toddler will naturally join in the words and movements.
Beaton, Clare. Mother Goose Remembers.
Stunning cloth art illustrates this charming collection of forty six familiar nursery rhymes, which makes a great
Baker, Keith. Big Fat Hen.
A lot happens in the engaging pictures of hens and a barnyard, set to the words and rhythms of a familiar nursery rhyme, which opens, "one, two, buckle my shoe."
Brown, Marc. Finger Rhymes.
This attractive collection gives the words and actions for fingerplays, some that may be familiar and others less well known. Look also for Brown's Hand Rhymes and Play Rhymes.
Cousins, Lucy. Humpty Dumpty and Other Nursery Rhymes.
A sturdy, brightly colored board book with several well-chosen nursery rhymes.
Cole, Joanna, and Stephanie Calmenson, compilers. Pat-a-Cake and Other Play Rhymes. Illustrated by Alan Tiegreen.
Here's a valuable cornucopia of interactive rhymes, including fingerplays, bouncing rhymes, tickling rhymes, and more.
dePaola, Tomie. Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose.
This large collection brings together more than two hundred traditional rhymes, accompanied by tidy illustrations in delicious colors.
Dunn, Opal. Hippety-Hop Hippety-Hay: Growing with Rhymes from Birth to Age Three. Illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert.
Another fine collection, this also tells new parents what to expect at different ages in terms of listening and language acquisition.
Manning, Jane. My First Baby Games.
This handy little book offers seven time-tested rhymes perfect for chanting to infants while performing the matching movements.
Opie, Iona, editor. My Very First Mother Goose. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells.
A gem among Mother Goose books, this oversized collection offers page after page of charming illustrations. A wonderful baby shower gift that will delight a child for years.
Westcott, Nadine Bernard, adapter. The Lady with the Alligator Purse.
Read this bouncing rhyme to your baby-or to an older child. Nobody can resist the catchy verses and the witty pictures.
Make Music a Part of Daily Life
Music is another way children are introduced to sound and, in most musical recordings, to words. Brain research indicates that singing to babies facilitates bonding between adult and child. The following pages suggest musical recordings to try with infants and toddlers. Also check out the list of songbooks on pages 26 and 27.
*Singing to your baby while you change a diaper is a wonderful way to communicate and bond with her.
*Smile while you are singing.
*Sing any song you know, or sing the following to the tune of "This is the way we . . ." (which can be used at any time of day by changing the lyrics to fit the activity):
This is the way we change your diaper
Change your diaper
Change your diaper
This is the way we change your diaper
And now you're clean and dry-hey!
Musical Recordings for
Babies and Toddlers
Jessica Harper. 40 Winks. Alacazam.
An award-winning recording, this will please parents as well as young children.
Various Artists. American Lullaby. Ellipsis Arts.
Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bill Staines, Maria Muldaur, and others sing lullabies.
Sally Rogers. At Quiet O'Clock. Rounder.
Lullabies with piano, guitar, and dulcimer accompaniments, this is a wonderful baby gift.
Susie Tallman. Classic Nursery Rhymes. Rock Me Baby Records.
Remind yourself of familiar nursery rhyme tunes and learn new ones from this fine collection.
Steve Rashid. I Will Hold Your Tiny Hand: Evening Songs and Lullabies. Woodside Avenue Music.
Don't limit these great songs to bedtime, but listen to them whenever quiet music fits your child's day.
Various Artists. Mozart Effect: Music for Babies from Playtime to Sleepytime. Children's Group.
A variety of Mozart's music chosen especially to soothe young children.
Various Artists. On a Starry Night. Windham Hill.
Artists from Bobby McFerrin to George Winston contributed their favorite lullaby to this lovely recording.
Mr. Al. Rock the Baby. Melody House
Gentle lullabies, tunes that include movements, and funny songs come together in this excellent recording.
Raffi. Singable Songs for the Very Young. Rounder.
A classic recording with lots of childhood favorites, from perhaps the most popular performer for children.
Ella Jenkins. You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song. Smithsonian Folkways.
The pacing of these songs makes them perfect for sing-a-longs.
Activities to Help Your Child
Learn About Letters and
Become Aware of Print
*Show your baby pictures with high contrast, such as simple black-and-white drawings of faces, dogs, cats, or other familiar images.
*Place colorful letters and numbers on your baby's bedroom wall.
*Sing the alphabet song.
*Monitor for ear infections. Chronic ear infections can cause difficulties in discriminating the sounds of the language. Have your child see a doctor regularly.
*Help develop your baby's vision by moving a small, colorful toy back and forth across her field of vision, encouraging her to follow it, saying, "Where is Froggy? He's over here. Now he's going down to your tummy."
*Read often to infants for short periods of time, using lots of expression. Read your baby's favorites over and over again.
*Allow your baby to hold the book once she is sitting and grasping.
*Watch to see what pictures she is interested in. Stop and talk about them.
Recommended Books for
Birth to Eighteen Months
In choosing books for this age group, look for pictures with simple shapes, bright colors, and sharp contrast that make it easy for very young children to make sense of the pictures. The texts should also be uncomplicated, with a limited number of words. Rhyme, rhythm, and repetition all appeal to babies and toddlers. Simple stories about familiar things work well, as do books where familiar objects are named. Books about animals and vehicles provide a perfect chance for parents to make noises that invite children to join in. And even the youngest child is fascinated by a book with flaps to move (or watch an adult move) and textures to touch. Since young children treat books like toys, look for small board books that can be easily wiped clean. Finally, don't forget the nursery rhyme and fingerplay books described earlier.
Ahlberg, Janet, and Allan Ahlberg. Baby Sleeps.
This small book has a picture of a baby on every page and brief text such as "Baby bounces" and "Baby hides."
Boynton, Sandra. Blue Hat, Green Hat.
This little book delights parents and children with its humorous story about a bird who puts on clothes the wrong way. One of many popular books by Boynton.
Charlip, Remy. Sleepytime Rhyme.
This ode, which has a gentle rhythm and lovely pictures, can be sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
Hoban, Tana. Black on White.
Since infants respond visually to contrast and patterns, this small black-and-white book suits them with its silhouettes of familiar objects. The companion book is White on Black.
Hubbell, Patricia. Pots and Pans. Illustrated by Diane de Groat.
Watch out! Baby's found the pot and pan cupboard and is having a great time banging and clanging.
Ormerod, Jan. Peek-a-Boo!
This book echoes the game of peekaboo, with the question "Where's the baby?" and flaps that hide smiling faces.
Oxenbury, Helen. All Fall Down.
Larger than most board books, this shows plump babies with different skin colors tumbling around together. Companion books are Clap Hands, Say Goodnight, and Tickle Tickle.
Pinkney, Andrea, and Brian Pinkney. Shake Shake Shake.
A mother, daughter, and little brother make music with a shekere, an African percussion instrument. Also look for Pretty Brown Face and Watch Me Dance.
Rowe, Jeannette. Whose Ears?
In this brightly illustrated guessing book, the question "Whose ears?" is repeated, while a flap hides all but the ears of an animal.
Taylor, Ann. Baby Dance. Illustrated by Marjorie van Heerden.
The words in this lovely board book sing from beginning to end as a black father dances with his baby girl.
Touch and Feel Kitten.
One in a popular series of small books, this incorporates different textures for children to touch into photographs of cute kittens.
Tracy, Tom. Show Me! Illustrated by Darcia Labrosse.
A mother plays a simple game with her baby, pointing out and naming the baby's nose, cheek, chin, and more.
Gift Ideas for Infants
*Stacking blocks made of foam and soft cloth
*Brightly colored blankets and mats for crawling on
*Mobiles to place above the crib or on the changing table
Dolls and Pretend Play
*Stuffed animals of various sizes
*Soft cuddly dolls
*Rattles, musical balls
*Manipulable crib boards that attach to the side of a crib, with knobs, buttons, and slides for a child to operate
*Bright pictures and posters of nursery rhymes, nature scenes, or favorite literary characters
Books and Music
*Board books with large, simple pictures
*Tapes and CDs of lullabies
*Soft cloth books
to Thirty-Six Months
When an infant shows excitement over pictures in a
storybook, when a two-year-old scribbles with a crayon, when a four-year-old points out letters in a street sign-all of these actions signal a child's growing literacy development.
-The National Research Council
Language development flourishes in children ages eighteen to thirty-six months. By sixteen months, children are adding to their vocabularies daily, and most two-year-olds have vocabularies of fifty to three hundred words. Daily story reading is critical for both language development and print understanding; young children who are exposed to books are motivated to learn about how print carries meaning. Spend time every day talking with your child, labeling actions and feelings, and naming pictures and new objects. Talk together while driving in the car, visiting the zoo, looking at books, or taking a bath, and include toddlers in mealtime conversations.
While children develop at somewhat different rates, experts offer overall milestones regarding literacy development.
Excerpted from Every Child Ready to Read by The Lee Pesky Learning Center. Copyright © 2004 by The Lee Pesky Learning Center. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.