The first few years of life are very important for a baby’s long-term development. During this time, the growing brain is constantly forming new connections that will serve as a foundation for future lifelong health and wellness, learning ability and prosperity.
For years, experts have been advising that babies, particularly those less than two years of age, need to be provided a stimulating, nurturing and interactive environment for their brain to develop to its optimal potential. One of the key areas that forms during this vital period is language. For babies to fully develop their language skills, they need to be spoken to constantly and have the opportunity to talk back and/or interact with as many people as possible. Note that computers and other types of screens will not achieve this. This interaction needs to be done with another person, be it a parent, grandparent, sibling or other caregiver.
Past studies have shown that the number of spoken words a baby hears by three years of age can actually predict future school success. So, it is not surprising that a recent study, published in September, added more positive outcomes to this type of baby-adult interaction.
The study completed daytime audio recordings for six months, of 146 infants and toddlers interacting with adults. They calculated the number of daily adult words and adult-child conversational turns (interactions). A decade later, they performed language and cognitive (IQ) tests on these same children. They then linked the test results with the number of words and verbal interactions in the original recordings for each child. They saw a relationship between the number of words babies were exposed to and future language development and intelligence. These results further support the thinking that early talk and interaction can be used to predict, and in fact, optimize school age language and cognitive outcomes – yet another reason for parents to create and offer an optimal early language learning and nurturing environment to their young babies.
Benefits of reading to children
Vocabulary and pronunciation By looking at a picture in a book or a word and then hearing how it is pronounced out loud, children can learn new words along with their pronunciation.
Preparing for school Reading to a child is great way to prepare a preschooler for the school environment.
Bonding time Reading to a child is also an ideal opportunity for a parent to spend some time with their child.
Part of a routine Reading to children before bed time becomes a nice bedtime ritual or routine. Children tend to have an easier time going to sleep if there is a set routine.
Lifelong benefits As children gets older, they will read on their own, building on the interest and experience of being read to for years. This sets off a lifelong interest in reading which comes in handy in any aspect of our lives.