The Power of Reading Aloud

Read it again!

There's no wrong way to read to babies and toddlers - it's just a matter of doing it in a cosy, fun environment. We talk to "baby geek" Miriam McCaleb

Learning to read doesn't just start after your child turns five and goes to school - the foundations for that transformation into a reader begins as early as infancy. You can start reading to baby at six weeks but at this stage it's all about encouraging a love of books.

Even chewing on books is encouraged: "Sitting on a cosy lap and having a chomp on a book - that's the vital step one," says childhood educator and baby specialist Miriam McCaleb.

"You don't have to read every word, looking at pictures and talking about them is valuable."

And another thing high on the list is reading aloud, or singing, nursery rhymes.

"One of the phrases that I really love in terms of developing language is, 'We need to bathe our babies in language,'" says Miriam.

If that's true then "think of nursery rhymes as a nice bubble bath", she says.

And the rhyme and repetition are a great way to help older children predict what's coming next. But nursery rhymes are not just about the rhymes.

It's about getting mums and dads comfortable and enjoying reading - or singing - out loud.

"It's the fact that we all know nursery rhymes and that makes them safe. And Mum's holding me close and has a smile on her face and it's a giggly fun time."

Miriam, who's a founding member of the Brainwave Trust in the South Island, tells mums who claim they can't sing to "suck it up".

"I'm not asking you to lay down a few tracks in a studio!"

Your baby will love your singing no matter how off-key it is.

Another important factor is for children to see Mum and Dad reading and enjoying books, magazines or the Sunday paper.

So no need to feel guilty about lying on the couch reading while the dishes await then!

But Miriam wonders what the effect of e-Books and Kindle will have on our children over the next 10 to 20 years.

For more of Miriam McCaleb's thoughts go to

For ideas on what to read to your child check out the top 100 books for kids, as voted by OHbaby! members.

And click here to brush up on your nursery rhymes.


Published 29 November, 2012



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