During this stage, a baby uses all their senses to explore books. They’ll look and listen, and use their hands and mouths to find out about books. For this reason, board, plastic and fabric books are often the most suitable. Keeping aside books with paper pages or precious family books until baby is older.
Baby will examine a book in a similar way to exploring any toy — they’ll look at it, shake it, bang it and put it in their mouth. This is okay. The idea is for baby to think playing with a book is fun. When a parent shares a book with them, the emphasis is just on enjoying stories and language together, not on learning to read.
Connecting with baby through sharing books
Although book sharing does provide a rich learning experience for baby, it’s also creating an opportunity for them to share quality time with the adults in their lives. Through the ritual of book sharing they have another way of building their attachment relationships in a warm and connected way. Baby also:
- feels secure as they snuggle up with a trusted whānau member
- shares attention with them about something interesting
- listens to language and hears it repeated
- sees and hears how books are fun, through the enthusiasm in the whänau member’s voice.
Baby will enjoy the repetition that books can provide, which is perfect for supporting their developing brain. Parents may notice baby having a favourite book or favourite pages in a book. When books are repeated regularly, baby learns about books in general and how they work: what’s the top, bottom, front and back, they’re read left to right and have pages that turn. Baby also gets to know what’s coming next — they learn to anticipate, which helps them to participate.
Tips for focusing baby’s attention
Adults can help babies to focus on the books by:
- tapping the page to draw their attention to it
- naming the pictures they see baby looking at
- making sounds or noises that might go with the pictures
- introducing prompts like ‘Turn the page’ (as they do it)
- monitoring when baby has had enough, and trying again later.
This Ministry of Education web page has more information for parents about reading: