It’s never too early to foster literacy development! As we learned in the post about supporting literacy across the ages, no matter what your child’s age, there are steps you can take to support literacy. Here are some general and some age-specific tips you can do to support literacy during infancy:
1. Sing, talk, play: Talk to your baby throughout the day. Narrate what you’re doing while you’re dressing baby or changing baby’s diaper. Play “Pat-a-Cake” or “This Little Piggy.” Don’t think you can sing? Your baby thinks you have the best voice in the world! Sing songs you love or even make them up using your baby’s name. Be sure to look at your infant while you’re speaking. In January 2012, a study was released suggesting infants may use lip reading to help them learn language. You can read about the study on the here.
2. Have sturdy books: Purchase books your infant can hold, throw and chew on such as board books or other chunky books. An infant who is allowed to handle books and love them (by chewing on them or trying to turn pages) is more likely to continue to love books beyond infancy.
3. Choose, bright, fun books: Infants love books with bright, bold colors and books with actual photographs in them. Worried about the cost of building up your home library? Check out the clearance rack at book stores, thrift stores or garage sales. As your infant gets older, try more interactive books such as Pat the Bunny or other lift-the-flap books.
4. Again, again, again: Do you have books memorized from reading them to your infant over and over and over again? That’s fantastic! It’s OK if your infant likes to hear the same story five or 10 or even 15 times in a row.
5. Books, books, everywhere: Keep books all over your house—in the living room, play room, bed room, bath room—even in the car! Have you seen plastic books made especially for the bathtub? My son still loves to read in the tub!
6. Sign language: Start signing with your baby, even before your baby can sign back. When you use signs, say the words verbally while you’re doing them. Start with simple signs that are important to your day such as milk, mama, dada, sleep and eat. You and your baby might even come up with your own signs for things! A sign almost every baby knows is to reach up to be picked up. Sure, that might not be typical “sign language”, but that is your baby using gestures to communicate!
7. Family: How can you show that books are important to the whole family? Encourage all family members—mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sister, brother—to read to baby. Another fun way to make books and family go together is to make a family book! Take pictures of people from your family and glue them onto scrapbook paper. I made one for a friend last year where I cut each page into a different shape, put a photo on one side and black and white prints on the back of each page. Laminate it and you have a family book especially for baby!
8. Read daily: I cannot stress this enough! Start in infancy. Make reading a part of your daily routine. Many people like to read bedtime stories, but you can read any time of day!
Catch up on our other installments in this literacy series: