What are Infants and Toddlers learning through books?

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” – Emilie Buchwald

When books are introduced at the infant age it is not with the expectation that children will sit still to read them, but more with the purpose of introducing literacy and creating a “normalcy” to having books available.  Why do we have books for young children if they aren’t able to use them “appropriately” yet?

Books are used for a number of reasons.  Obviously the most important being literacy and language.  Books are a great resource for teaching vocabulary and language concepts, which in turn helps to promote cognition.  Before babies are even able to talk, they are benefiting from hearing you read and are internalizing the words that you are using.  As they get older they will start to learn that the words and pictures together are telling a story.

Books can be used as a great sensory tool, particularly for Infants and Toddlers.  Babies and young children like to touch and taste, so books with textures, sounds, moveable and pop up pieces can all incorporate meaningful sensory experiences.  Older Infants and Toddlers are developing motor control, which can also be incorporated as they learn to manipulate different pieces of various books.  Sometimes just being able to pick up the book and pretend to turn the pages is satisfying enough! Squishy, colorful and fabric books will particularly enhance sensory experience for young children.

Books can help support emotional development in children.  As I talked about in a previous post, children have a sense of accomplishment when they master something.  Books with repetition are one of the best way for children to master a story, and gain that sense of accomplishment.  This can strengthen their sense of self and build positive esteem, snowballing into that positive emotional development.  Books are also a great way to incorporate conversations about emotions.  For example by using the book “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…” by Molly Bang.  Conversation starters are almost built in!  “Why is Sophie feeling angry?” “What do you do when you’re feeling angry?”

51S6Bi9BWOL._SX424_BO1,204,203,200_

Another added benefit to reading with young children is the social aspect.  If you are reading individually to your child you are teaching them that they are important and you want to spend your time with them.  That individual attention can be invaluable.  In a group setting, reading stories with a small or large group can still give that individual attention and feeling of importance to children.  Sometimes children might look at books together, or sit near each other and look at different books.  Again, this gives that social interaction and shared experience around a love of reading.

When children observe adults reading for fun, they internalize that reading is fun, important and beneficial.  It is impossible to read too much to a child.  Remember to have appropriate books located in accessible and various locations.  The more you read, the more you will start to see your child gravitate towards books, even when you aren’t initiating the story time!

We cannot expect Infants and Toddlers to sit for a story like Preschoolers, so what exactly do we expect for them to do with books?  Tune in later this week for my explanation!