Helping Babies Learn

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Confession: I do not have kids. I’ve never taken child development classes or anything like that. I’ve babysat, worked in the kids department of my library for 4 years, watched a best friend’s child go from infant to toddler, but yet I’ve never really sat and thought about the miraculous thing that is a kid’s mind.

This week in class we’re looking at early literacy and Every Child Ready to Read. Sometimes, let’s be real, class articles can be a bit dry. These book chapters were fascinating. Here’s some amazing information from Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz:

–Babies are born with a lot of brain cells (100 billion) but they’re not connected. What makes electrical impulses between the cells? Sensory experiences: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. (Chapter 1 page 6)

–Serotonin helps the electrical impulses and the connections. When does the brain produce higher levels of serotonin? When the baby feels loved and cared for. (Chapter 1 page 6-7)

–“Emotions boost memory by creating a release of chemicals that act as a memory fixative. When emotions are engaged, the brain is activated….High levels of stress have a deleterious effect. (Chapter 1 page 7-8)”

Honestly, it’s a little hard for me to wrap my brain around baby brains. It’s incredible to think that these tiny little things when they’re born are wired to start receiving everything we give them, and everything that we do–tell stories, talk to them, read to them, love them, hug them, care for them–will lead up to and prepare them for being ready to read.

Isn’t it simple and obvious when you think about it? That a child who is read to in a positive and fun environment will associate reading as being pleasurable instead of being a skill. That talking to your baby about what you’re doing, pointing out vocabulary, showing them words on a page, rereading the same book 57 times in a row because they say “Again!” is building skills that will lay a great foundation for getting them ready to read and creating repetition that builds memory and learning. And these are things that you can do from the moment they’re born!

As they get older you can start helping early literacy development by embracing the six early literacy skills (Chapter 1 pgs 12-14 ):

  • Print motivation-having an interest in and an enjoyment of books
  • Phonological awareness-the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words
  • Vocabulary- knowing the names of things
  • Narrative skills-ability to describe things and events and to tell stories
  • Print awareness-noticing print in the environment, how to handle a book, how to follow words on a page
  • Letter knowledge-knowing that letters are different from each other, the same letter can look different, each letter has a name and is related to specific sounds

Be ready and able to point them out during storytime or just having a conversation with a parent (or even your friends with children!). It can make a huge difference towards a child having a strong foundation towards starting to read.

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2 responses »

  1. I think you make some excellent points here! Teaching parents how to interact with their own children is a role a Youth Services Librarian can, and should, embrace. I know there are many programs to teach young mothers how to talk to their children to increase vocabulary and early literacy. I think youth specialist librarians should be more involved in such programs. We could run workshops that teach and encourage parents to do “story times” at home. We could do programming to help parents make their own felt board stories, or include them in our programming planning and implementation. We can also present to parents about the importance of early literacy in regards to their childrens’ achievement in the future.

    Here’s a link to an article about what I am talking about:
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/233151-how-to-teach-teenage-mothers-about-language-development/

  2. Laine, that’s a great article! Thanks so much for posting it 🙂

    I love the idea of programming to help parents make their own felt boards so they can have their own storytimes at home. What a great way to show them the importance of early literacy and how easy it is to do. Making handouts for parents just isn’t enough, we do have to be the ones to teach the parents how to do it. Storytime shouldn’t just be a half hour at the library once a week!

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