It's well-established that reading to babies is awesome for their learning and development, and that getting started well before they know what's going on in any given storybook will only benefit them once they start school and beyond. But even if you may think it all sounds like goo-goo and gah-gah to your infant, it turns out that it does matter what kinds of books they're exposed to. According to a recently published study, reading your baby books in which the author clearly names the characters and labels the objects helps them to learn even better. And this is information that will make this parent-child reading time even more productive and meaningful for their bright future.
There are a couple of reasons why the kind of books that get specific may be better for kids in the short-term and in the long run. The study, published in the journal Child Development and executed by researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, concluded that such books help little ones — who have not even reached their first birthdays yet — retain information better.
These kinds of books also encourage parents to talk and engage with their kids more, study co-author and University of Florida psychology professor Lisa Scott told the University of Florida News. As Scott wrote for Quartz, she shared that her own daughter loved the Pat the Bunny books and stories about animals, such as Dear Zoo. "If names weren’t in the book, we simply made them up," Scott advised, according to Quartz.
Prior research has already demonstrated that reading to infants helps them to develop larger vocabularies and better reading skills before they even start elementary school. This new research takes that valuable knowledge a step further by letting parents and other guardians know that some books help help them achieve those (and other) ultimate goals even more effectively.
In order to reach that conclusion, the researchers measured a group of babies' attention and learning twice: once when they were 6 months old, and again when they turned 9 months of age. Between these visits, the researchers instructed some families to read storybooks that featured individual names to their infants, and others read those with only category-level names.
At the end of the study, eye-tracking and electroencephalogram, or EEG, methods indicated that the 9-month-old infants whose parents read them the books with individual-level names were able to tell the difference between individual characters. That wasn't the case for the category-level book readers or the babies in the control group.
For Scott, this is important information, as she told the University of Florida News:
There are lots of recommendations about reading books to babies, but our work provides a scientific basis for these recommendations and suggests that the type of book is also important. Shared reading is a good way to support development in the first year of life. It creates an enjoyable and comforting environment for both the parents and the infant and encourages parents to talk to their infants.
The best part of all this is that the additional learning that comes from exposing babies to storybooks with the individual-level names in them only compounds the already-known benefits of reading any type of book to them. According to KidsHealth, babies develop their listening, memory, and vocabulary skills when someone reads to them, as well as promotes their social and emotional development because of the exposure to expressive sounds in the reader's voice. Importantly, the routine of reading together from the time that a kid is very young teaches them that reading is fun and can set them up to have a lifelong love of books, Parents magazine reported.
Of course, once a kid loves to read, the possibilities for learning are pretty much endless. So, now's the time to cuddle up with your little one and a good book.
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