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5 Activities to Prime Your Baby's Brain for Reading

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

Do you sometimes look at your baby and wonder what you could be doing with them to help prepare them to learn to read (later on)? What is the preparation you can do as a parent to help prime your child's brain to receive, accept and familiarise the information as a foundation for learning to read?

In this article, I will be focusing on the pre-reading stage (approximately ages 0-1 year) and what you can do as parents to help introduce the basics of reading to your children.

1. Read To Your Child

But first things first. In order for your child to be able to eventually read, they have to be read to. There is no better way for them to experience the English language in its most absolute form than to hear it read from the written word. You can start even before they are born! A baby recognises the voice of their mother as they can hear it from the womb. Continue the practice once they are born. After all, books that you read from have been written by an author who presumably is language proficient. The book would have also been edited before was published. Having gone through the rigours of publication, the level of English you will read to your child is going to be at its highest standard. Let's not stop there. Using good English is key, but reading with intonation, inflection and emotion in your voice is important to bring life and meaning to the text. When you read this way, your child will take note of the variation in your voice and be more likely to pay attention. Eventually they will gather meaning from the emotive way in which you express the written word and be able to relate it to their life experiences or ask you for more information (once they are able). Don't be afraid (and withstand the boredom) to read the same books to your children over and over again. Try and gauge their favourites by what they thumb through on their own the most or are more inclined to pay attention to. Each time you read the same book to your child, it not only breeds familiarity and builds confidence, a new level of meaning can be derived by your child from the text and/or images. Which brings me to another point...get books with lots of pictures in them. As you read, you'll be able to point out the specific element you are reading about and bring even greater understanding to your child. Reading to your child in this manner will help them be able to read in future because they'll know which way to read the text (left to right), how to pronounce the words properly, apply pause, inflection and emotion to the text as necessary. They'll know to do this by mirroring what they know from the example you set by reading to them.

2. Speak to Your Child Regularly

As you go about your day, don't feel absurd speaking to your child and telling them what is about to happen to them, even if they can't respond to you yet. Point things out as you go about your day, just as you would point to something on a page of a book. Your child understands far sooner than they are able to vocalise their understanding. By speaking to them, you're introducing the English language to them and bringing meaning to what they are experiencing, providing them with the vocabulary to express themselves. Knowing the English language and being able to speak it are definite precursors to being able to read.

3. Sing to Your Baby

Can you carry a tune? If you are conscious about the way you sing, don't be, for the sake of your child - sing to them! Songs are a great way to remember language. Learn as many nursery rhymes as you can and sing/recite them to your child. My husband doesn't remember any nursery rhymes so he would sing the ABC's to our daughter to help put her to sleep. There is no better way of learning the names of the alphabet than the ABC song! He would then learn the theme songs of her favourite TV shows (he used to sing the theme song to Sophia the 1st) to help put her to sleep. Whichever way you decide to do it, sing the ABCs and sing anything else you can remember. If they're awake and watching you, try dropping the last word and wait for them to join in the singing (especially as they get closer to a year old). They won't be able to resist helping you finish their favourite song. This is a wonderful and easy way of learning to speak using song. If you're not free to sing to your child or if someone else puts them to sleep, have good quality, child appropriate music (nursery rhymes etc) played for them throughout the day. Just ensure that the songs played have words that have clear diction (pronounced well) and sung with emotion and pep.

4. Get a Chart

Learning is a multi-sensory discipline for all ages, but especially so for young children. Engage their sense of sight by hanging an ABC poster on the wall of their nursery. Hang it at eye level so that they can crawl to it and point. Get a poster with the alphabet and with pictures so that they can associate something with each letter name. Sing the ABCs and point to the letters on the poster as you sing to provide visual cues. Any good book shop should have one of these that you can buy...or make and print your own! Go one better and say the sounds of each letter as you point them out.

5. Quiz Them

Understanding comes before speech. Ask them to point to am object that you've been showing them or to a character in the book you're reading to them to gauge their understanding. Encourage your child to point to a letter name on the chart. These are simple activities to help sharpen their recall abilities and get to know how much they have absorbed.

Remember to keep things playful, loving and fun so that your child associates learning with good feelings (positive reinforcement). Give them lots of encouragement and love when they pay attention to what you're showing them and especially when they respond. The more fun it is, the more time they get with you, the more likely they're going to want to do more. Keep at it, consistency is key!

Watch out for my next article where I'll cover more of what you can do with Emergent Readers (ages 1-3). Till then, happy reading!

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