Alexandra Hunter on sharing a love of reading
When I was pregnant with Sebby I was told to talk to him and to read to him extensively from day one. I think it was our NCT practitioner who first said that to me. There are so many benefits to reading to babies and toddlers. By reading to a baby you are increasing your child’s exposure to language and starting their speech development and language comprehension, well before your tiny can talk. A baby is like a sponge, it can’t talk back but they soak up and store information and sounds they are presented with almost from birth. Sebby’s language and comprehension has always been good and I know this is because he has always been read to. One of my brother’s visited just after Sebby was born with the complete Beatrix Potter collection and from week one I would read him these beautiful little books in my bed. He now knows all of the stories and chooses which one he wants when he wakes up from his nap. Our new goldfish were carefully named after much deliberation by Sebby as Burglar Bill, Burglar Betty and Jeremy Fisher, after his literary heroes. Talking to a tiny baby I found infinitely harder than the reading. You feel like a bit of a twit chatting to a pram as you walk down the street in the early days. I always found it easier when Sebby was in a sling and I learned to describe what I was doing or what I saw; making tea, doing laundry, until eventually it became second nature
I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher and the focus on literacy, language, vocabulary and speech is one of the most focused on aspects of our course and training. We must teach our children to love books and to engage with reading as early as possible. The benefits are numerous and the effort put in during the first few years can literally last a lifetime. Reading to a child is one of the most valuable gifts that you can give them and it’s an absolute pleasure to do. After bath time every night Sebby has his milk, I have my wine, and we choose 3 stories, 2 to be read in my bed and one in his room with the lights low. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and at the end of a stressful day there is literally nothing better than curling up together and get lost in stories.
Amongst my fondest and earliest memories are the nights I spent in my mama’s bed, with my brothers, in our pyjamas being read stories. Books that we couldn’t possibly have read ourselves but which exposed us to new worlds and expanded our imaginations. Children’s classics such as The Borrowers, Dr Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien and Enid Blyton. Reading to our children from when they are tiny is so very, very important. This morning Sebby discovered the Mr Man collection I’d put on his bookcase when he was asleep, lovingly stored by my mama from our childhood, and we were both in heaven reading them together over our porridge. I love books, my child loves books, and even if I make a mess of everything else I am so very pleased that I got this right and passed on my love of literature to him.