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Literacy Development for Babies

by Lee Grayson, studioD

Helping your baby grow into a literate adult means making a conscious effort to promote reading at home. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families stresses the time from birth to 3 years as a critical period for literacy development. Babies growing up in homes with books, magazines and the time to explore language develop literacy skills faster than children in households without these things, according to Reading Is Fundamental.

Handling Books

Babies need to see adults and older children handle books to develop reading skills. The simple task of holding a book and turning pages requires muscle tone and developing the fine motor skills to grab and turn pages. Babies also need to understand book features, including turning pages from the right to the left for books printed in most countries. The simple concept of the front and back of the book also requires exploration by tiny readers.

Looking and Recognition

Books with large contrasting photos and drawings introduce letters, numbers and shapes to baby. The child then begins to identify images on book pages and react to photos or drawings. Babies recognize photos matching the family pet or a favorite toy, and this process helps introduce the world. Babies react to humorous book images by laughing or by pointing at favorite foods or text images showing play the child enjoys.Taking 20 minutes to read to your baby each day helps develop critical literacy skills and a lifetime love of books, according to the McCowan Memorial Library in Pitman, New Jersey.

Reading Behaviors

Babies at approximately four months see books primarily as toys. Children focus more on the book as a story at six months and sometimes help turn pages. Between a year and 18 months, your child might imitate reading behaviors, including mimicking the process. If you read aloud to your child, your baby might attempt to recreate the sounds you make when reading. It may sound like gibberish, but your baby is attempting to recreate the favorite story. Some children use your inflection or the comic noises you make as you read the story. Encourage your child to read to you by asking questions about the story or images. Point and nod at the images, if your child shows you pages from the text. Repeat important vocabulary words from the book as your child "reads," and provide reinforcement when your baby repeats these words.

Understanding Pictures and Stories

Development for babies includes recognition of how images fit together to create a story and how some books feature developed stories. This differs from the process of matching a real animal with a photo of the animal in a book. Babies with language might describe some of the events in the book and discuss events on a simple level. Babies without developed-language skills might act out an action described in the book, imitate a story character or make the sounds mentioned in the text.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

Photo Credits

  • Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images