Back-to-School News Distributed 07/11/08
When parents read aloud to their children, everyone wins, according to LSU AgCenter family development professor Dr. Rebecca White.
“Reading is fun for the adult and great for the children,” White said. “It’s easy for you and good for them.” She explains that you don't even have to ration it because, unlike TV or ice cream, there's no such thing as too much.
“There's no such thing as too early, either,” White said, noting that if you wait until preschool age to start reading to your children, you'll have missed out on years of opportunities to help your child with pre-literacy skills.
“If you even wait until they can talk, you'll have missed out on precious months where you can interact with your child in a beneficial way,” the family expert added.
“As soon as your baby can focus her eyes on the pattern in your shirt or sweater, start showing her the pictures found in infant books and talk about the images,” she said.
Reading to tiny babies is a way of talking to them. Talking not only speeds brain development but also cements relationships. Make sure that anyone who ever cares for your baby takes reading to her for granted, White advises.
Reading to older babies is a way of expanding their experiences. You can't always find a real cat or truck or fried egg to tell them about, but you can always find pictures of those things in books. And linking the sight of things with the sounds of names boosts language learning.
“Reading to toddlers is educational and loving and fun,” White said, adding that it's about language itself and discovering the joys of jokes and rhymes and funny, long words. It's about learning to “read” pictures to find the meanings of words or the answers to questions hiding behind those thrilling pull-tabs: Where's the kitten gone? There he is!
“Reading to young children is about the sheer, entrancing magic of stories unfolding between the pictures and the voice, playing to an emerging imagination and learning to put oneself in someone else's place,” White said.
For related youth development topics, visit the family and home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.