“Babies need social interactions with loving adults who talk with them, listen to their babbling, name objects for them, and give them opportunities to explore their worlds.”– Sandra Scarr (developmental psychologist )
Literacy is a process of adding new skill to the one before and which builds over time. It is not just a skill, but a love of books and it starts at a very early stage of childhood. During these early months, a baby’s reading skills are developed.
A lot of attention has been paid recently on the importance of reading. It plays a critical role in helping a child’s academic area in the later stages of schooling. These skills can be actively promoted to a 6 months old child by introducing her clearly to the joys of handling the books and reading. Young babies explore the world through their sensorial experiences- using their hands, eyes, mouth and ears. It’s through their senses only that they gather the initial and useful information about size, shape and texture of the objects in their surroundings.
All of us, as parents and teachers, wonder sometimes why it is important to give the reading exposure to a baby who doesn’t even know the words yet. But in fact, it is in these early months only when the foundation of reading and talking is being built. As we read to the child, she is learning to listen and comprehend the sounds and words of her mother tongue/home language and is also becoming familiar with the rhythm of speech. And eventually she learns their meaning after hearing those words over and over again. Reading to the babies nurtures the love and interest in books. The main aim at this age is for exploring the books in a pleasurable manner and forming a positive experience that makes the child more eager to interact with and learning about the books. It could be boring for an adult to read the same stories or singing the same songs, but for a young child, repetition leads to the learning. When we read the different characters with their own interesting voice, the baby gets a chance to hear different pitches, sounds and the tones of language which helps them to learn how to make different sounds with their own voices.
At the age between 2 to 3 years, children also develop to make logical connections between the things (cognitive ability). They learn to understand why things happen. This is again an important skill which helps the child to gain a more complex comprehension of how the world around them works. When they ask “why”, they want more information. By answering to their questions, we are feeding their natural curiosity and increasing their appetite for learning. So asking “why” is critical for the child. The more she says “why” the more she learns.
The foundation for learning is being laid at early years of life in which the learning happens at emotional, cognitive, experiential, and even at cellular levels. The following are the areas of development which are critical for a child’s early education and forming the base for learning at later stages of life as well.
The development of brain occurs at a maximum pace during infancy. Billions of neurons make synaptic connections within the infant brain on everyday’s basis through different exposures. These networks are further transformed into an increasingly complex web of motor, language, socio-emotional and visual connections which are important for learning in the later years of life.
Comprehension of ideas
child’s narrative understanding (process of stringing together the meaningful ideas of story) is formed during the early years through discovery and exploration. Children observe daily events, listen to simple stories and begin to appreciate the narrative and to themselves become “storytellers”. When a baby points to a dropped sipper and makes gestures, she may be telling, “I was holding the mug, and then it slipped; now look, there’s a big mess!” When these ideas are acknowledged, infants are motivated to share their gestures and ideas with adults. So, narrative understanding is at the heart of learning to read and further communicate.
Language Development and Communication Skills
spoken language, print medium or gestures, are the different ways of communicating for human beings. In the early years (2-3) children acquire the first hundreds of words they will use throughout their lives. Simultaneously, children learn few rules of grammar along with absorbing the social conventions that exist about communication in that particular community where they live. Children develop their own competence and self-efficacy when adults respond sensitively and constantly to their attempt of communication.
Infants go through a central task of developing strong social attachments with family members and primary care givers. Infants learn to trust adults, feel safe to explore their world, and to develop a sense of confidence in their own capabilities to master new skills in the context of warm and loving relationships. This growing sense of competence and self-esteem gives them personal identity which prepares them for success as communicators, readers and writers in the later years of life.
Children, at their early stages of life, are introduced to their cultural community and the practices being followed by that community. Also, they learn their culture’s way of learning and the ways of interacting through stories and songs. Child’s early learning can be supported in an influential manner by ensuring the continuity between home and daycare/preschool
Appreciation of Print and Pleasure in Reading
Long before reading, infants learn sounds and words and develop an appreciation for the language through stories, songs and other sound plays (phonological awareness). Very young children begin to take pleasure in reading when they get the right and warm experience with a loving adult. Lawrence Kutner (20th century), U.S. child psychologist and author quoted “As one child psychologist friend of mine explains it with tongue in cheek, your baby only needs a lot of light at night if he’s reading or he’s entertaining guests.”