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Foster a love of reading from infancy

All parents know their child is
amazing. Now research is showing
that our babies are even smarter than
we thought. Within the first couple
of months of life, they’re already
beginning to develop their passive
vocabulary by learning the difference
between similar and different word
sounds (phonemes). It was this
research that inspired Dr. Richard
Goldbloom to become involved in the
Read to Me! program in Halifax.

A book titled Meaningful Differences
in the Everyday Experience of Young
American Children
caught Dr.
Goldbloom’s attention and led him
to explore the implications of early
reading. The researchers studied the
volume of words spoken between
parents and children in various
socioeconomic environments.

“They found that when they
recorded parent-child interactions
from ‘middle class’ families, parents
spoke over 300,000 words over the
first year of their child’s life. In the
lower income families, the total
was one-tenth of that – only 30,000
words,” says Dr. Goldbloom. Many of
the low-income homes had no books,
or very few.

Then he encountered a research
project that was being done by a
graduate student who was studying
the reactions of babies to phonemes.
The student found that if a phoneme
like “ba” was repeated to a child
enough times, the baby’s brain would
respond to the sound. Then the
student discovered that if she changed
the sound to “wa”, the baby would no
longer respond. “That suggested to
me that the ability to recognize parts
of words, which is very fundamental
to reading, is there right from early
infancy. All of that added up to
‘How do we get parents to read to
their children more often?’” says Dr.

The Read to Me! program strives
to accomplish just that. Read to Me!
is an early reading program that
encourages parents to read to their
very young babies. Each new baby
born in Nova Scotia receives a bag
filled with books, a CD, and baby’s
first library card. The bags are
available in English, Arabic, French, Chinese and Mi’kmaq.

There are also special book
resources for hearing impaired and
visually impaired families. The board
members of Read to Me! realized
that the easiest way to ensure the
program reached everyone would be
to distribute the bags before the baby
goes home from the hospital. In the
midst of blood tests, hearing tests and
form completion, the book delivery is
a welcome interruption.

With our busy lifestyles and
increased reliance on texting and
social media, conversation is slowly
becoming a thing of the past. “The
more words the baby hears, the more
the baby will speak, and probably
sooner, as well,” says Dr. Goldbloom.
No matter how busy the day, we
need to make the time to read to our
children – even our very youngest.
So put down the cell phone, pick up
Goodnight Moon, and get ready to help
your baby be even more amazing.

How to grow a bookworm

Choose an appropriate
book. Babies are attracted
to black and white
patterns, and bright
colours. Pat-a-Cake, by
Annie Kubler, Go, Baby,
by Marilyn Janovitz
and Kisses, Kisses
by Sheree Fitch
are some of the books
included in the Read to
Me! book bag. These
other recent releases are
all destined to become
baby classics.

Counting Kisses by
Karen Katz
Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle,
by Susan Musgrave
It’s a Little Book by
Lane Smith
We Belong Together by
Joyce Wan
Who Loves You, Baby? by Nina Laden
Baby’s Lullaby by Jill
Kitten’s Spring by
Eugenie Fernandes

Choose books with
small amounts of text on
each page. Rhyming or
sing-song text is ideal.

Babies love faces!
Choose books with
photos of happy faces to
accompany the story.

Read and talk to
your baby every day to
increase the number
of words he hears and
to develop his passive

Babies are musical.
Singing engages them
and exposes them to

Cuddle with your baby
while you read. This
will both encourage the
parent-child bond and
will encourage baby to
associate reading with

Choose books with
illustrations that have
strong connections with
the text. Babies will
eventually learn to make
the connections.

Start reading to your
baby as early as you can.
This will make reading
a solid part of the daily

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2013.

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