"There's more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island" - Walt Disney
I’ll bet you have walked past the library many times. It’s just a building, right? Bricks and mortar, glass and steel. Oh, but no, it is so much more: it is a magical treasure-house of fun, learning and ideas.
As a child, naturally curious, I devoured every piece of reading material around me. I really was the child who - when bored - would and did read the back of the cereal packet! When I discovered the school library, I felt I had hit the jackpot: a wall-to-wall expanse of precious literary gems spanning every genre.
It’s never too early to begin developing a lifelong love of learning in a small child. They have a thirst for it. Some studies even suggest1 that a pregnant woman's reading, singing and touching of the abdomen stimulate the baby and affect its learning.
Sharing stories, songs and rhymes with your baby can begin as early as birth. Of course, they don’t understand the words, but it’s a great way to connect and bond with your newborn and to familiarise her with sounds, words and sentences. It builds literacy skills and helps her to read later in life. You are also modeling reading to your child by holding the book the right way and turning pages. By making this a daily, happy experience, you are setting the stage for a positive feeling toward books and reading that will be a gift to your baby for her whole life.
At the library, it is almost a rite of passage to welcome back new parents who loved coming here as a child and now want their own little ones to experience the same joy. Our staff were tickled at the godmother who gave a library membership to her goddaughter for her first birthday, remembering with pleasure her own childhood visits with her grandmother. We could not conceive of a more valuable gift.
Books are an obvious tool, but there are other ways to build a child’s literacy: Telling stories, singing songs and saying rhymes together are also rich activities for early literacy skills – and your child will probably have a lot of fun at the same time. Sometimes your child might enjoy these activities more than reading.
The library offers free programs for children and their caregivers to enjoy reading together. Baby Bounce is for babies from birth to about one year with simple, repetitive stories, rhymes and songs. Toddler Time builds on that for children who have outgrown Baby Bounce and Preschool Storytime is a more sophisticated program for older children, with storytime, singing, dancing and craft.
We’d love to see you and your little ones there, but try to make room for reading activities every day. There are a wealth of opportunities: bedtime, bath time, potty time, in the car, the park or waiting room2.
You might like to make up your own stories or share family stories, or even just talk about the pictures in the book. Your child will learn words and develop language skills from the songs, stories and conversations you share together. Perhaps listen to a talking book (recorded book) in the car together.
Make reading time a fun and happy experience for your child. Turn off the TV and phone, so you can give it your full attention. Sit the child on your knee so he can see both the book and your face. Change your voice, make noises and sounds: mix it up! When your child is old enough to ask, let him choose the book and be prepared to read his favourites over and over. I think I can still recite The monster at the end of this book – about loveable, furry old Grover - verbatim!
To begin reading to a baby, choose books with bright colours, different textures and feels, or pictures of babies and faces. Join your library for an unlimited source of free books. As your child grows older, choose books with rhyme or repetition and explore storybooks, but also information books on animals, stars, racing cars or anything that grabs your child’s attention.
If you are not sure where to start in selecting books for your children, ask for advice at the library. Our collection includes picture and chapter books, eBooks, talking books, early readers, books for reluctant readers and even books in Braille.
Whatever you give your child, give them the gift of learning through books. Oh yes, and give them that small, free treasure map…. their own library card.
1. Pregnant women with depressive and anxiety symptoms read, talk, and sing less to their fetuses (2017), Maria Hernandez-Reif, April Kendrick, Daniel Mason Avery, Journal of Affective Disorders Retrieved 8 August, 2018 at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.12.108
2. Raising children network (2018), Reading and storytelling with babies and children. Retrieved 9 August, 2018 at http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/reading.html