When is a book more than a book?
When it’s at the center of a snuggly, joyful, lively family storytime, that’s when!
A storytime book isn’t just an ordinary book: it’s the catalyst for a powerful shared experience, a celebration of togetherness, chock-full of laughing, learning, bonding, and just plain fun.
And yes, an actual, holdable book is needed for the magic to unfold, a book with pictures to point to and words to play with. When we share a real book, we smell the perfume of the paper and see its grain or sheen in the lamplight — sensual pleasures we’ll relish as long as we live. With a beloved book, the spell of the story begins to take hold and the juicy anticipation builds as each real page slowly turns.
Notice that snuggling is another essential part of storytime magic: close, warm, and safe, nestled in the crook of an arm or on a welcoming lap. Deep family bonds are formed during these sacred times, and science tells us that all kinds of wonderful feel-good hormones are exchanged when people sit close and share a happy experience.
Best yet, this snuggly read-aloud time can begin even before birth! In the last three months of pregnancy, the baby’s brain and auditory system are already developed enough for her to hear and recognize speech sounds, making this the perfect time to launch family storytime. The benefits of prenatal reading to babies’ cognitive development and language skills have been well documented over the last decade (just check out the Research section in the sidebar).
Just try it! Snuggle up with your partner tonight, and every night, for 15 minutes with a bedtime story — especially one that’s rhythmic and rhyming — for your expected little one. If you read to the bump every night during the last trimester, then keep that cozy ritual going when baby arrives, you’ll see real storytime magic when she’s born. Hearing the familiar story, she’ll probably stop crying . . . turn in the direction of the familiar voice . . . move her face and body, already caught in the spell of a beloved book.
But not storytime! Storytime is free! Storytime is easy! And most importantly, storytime gives your children what they crave most of all: YOU!
So grab that beloved book, pick a cozy spot, settle down, and snuggle up with your child — or your child-to-be. Just sit back and let the storytime weave its spell and create the magical adventure that you and your child can experience again and again.
Take it from Mem Fox, the queen of Read-Aloud Magic. Here are her Ten Read-Aloud Commandments:
1 Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud. From birth! [Of course, we would respectfully amend that to “From the third trimester, or earlier!”]
2 Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!
3 Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
4 Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners
5 Read the stories that your child loves, over and over and over again, and always read in the same “tune” for each book: i.e., with the same intonations and volume and speed, on each page, each time.
6 Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
7 Look for rhyme, rhythm, or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
8 Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work; it’s always a fabulous game.
9 Never, ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
10 Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.
If you’re expecting a baby, you might already be clued in to the huge importance of daily read-aloud starting right from birth, and all the developmental, social, and family-bonding benefits it brings.
Well, there is a growing body of research (just check out the links in our sidebar!) showing that all these benefits can be enhanced if daily read-aloud starts even before birth.
Yes, your baby’s ears are already developed enough by the third trimester for her to hear and recognize your voice and even to start picking up on the rhythyms and melodies of your speech. This fosters not only her brain development but the bond you share, because by reading aloud you’ll naturally be communicating your love for her. You’ll also be showing her the joy and magic of language, and she’ll be fascinated and calmed by poems and stories when she hears them as a newborn.
What if storytime does turn out to be your new family’s favorite daily routine? And baby does turn out to be especially curious and connected, a lover of books and learning in general? You’ll be so glad you gave prenatal storytime a try!
The research confirms: the best kind of story to read to your baby in utero is . . .
In other words, Rollicking! And Recognizable even from within the muffled environment of the womb.
Now, what more rollicking poetry is there than the limerick form? Something like Edward Lear’s:
But we can do even better than Mr. Lear when it comes to a perfectly rollicking limerick that expresses your joyful anticipation of the birth of your baby! Just for a sample:
A bouncy-seat when you are tiny
But someday you’ll crawl, walk and run
I will cry “Peek-a-boo!”
For a giggle from you
Oh, I can’t wait to show you the fun!
Yes, our very own baby-bump-shaped board book, Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be. And for just this week we’re offering it to you, our dear Reading Womb readers, for a special price.
Go to Amazon and enter the promo code N26VPJ3D to get $1.00 off until May 31, 2014. Enjoy!
A special note to all you expectant mothers: We wish you a happy and peaceful Mother’s Day!
During this exciting time, don’t forget how important it is for you to relax and enjoy the moment. As we all know, stress can have a strong impact on our physiological and psychological well-being, and recent studies suggest that it’s also harmful to your unborn baby. Researchers from the University of Konstanz in Germany found that when a pregnant woman was exposed to stress, her baby’s stress-hormone level also increased, and this British study made similar conclusions.
Conversely, relaxing is good for your baby—very, very good. If you just sit in a comfortable place and breathe, you’re doing the most important thing of all, nurturing and caring for your baby. As you take each deep breath in, be aware that you’re also breathing for your baby. She’s taking in that life-giving oxygen and it’s nourishing her and helping her to grow. Now, be aware of the rhythm of your heart beating. Each beat brings invigorating blood to your baby, making her stronger every moment.
When you add your soothing voice to the mix, reading a calming, rhythmic story, you have the formula for perfect relaxation for both mother and child. As you read you’ll find yourself feeling more calm as your heartbeat and breathing slow down. This relaxation will immediately pass to your baby; you’ll both feel connected, soothed, and peaceful, and you’ll know that you’re accomplishing the most valuable task of all.
So, go ahead, Mom-to-Be. Stop, breathe, relax . . . and dream.
March is National Reading Month, and organizations all over the U.S. are commemorating it with activities to spread the love of reading. The National Education Association celebrated Read Across America Day on March 3 with fun events in schools, libraries, and community centers around the country. And the nonprofit organization Read Aloud 15 Minutes, whose mission is to “make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care,” has gone a step further and declared March National Read Aloud Month! The organization’s central message is that . . .
When every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, more children will be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, more children will have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school, and more children will be prepared for a productive and meaningful life after school.
Hear, hear! And of course we have to add that this 15 minutes of reading time with your child can begin even before birth. In the last three months of pregnancy, when the baby’s brain and auditory system are already developed enough for her to hear and recognize sounds, you can start practicing this important reading routine and start enjoying the feeling of sharing the love of language with your child.
We gave our friends the opportunity to test-drive our new book, Can’t Wait to Show You, while it was still in prototype form. They soon got used to the rather odd feeling of reading to an unseen audience and began to make an emotional connection to the story itself. The pleasure of the rhymes and rhythms was multiplied by their knowledge that the baby inside was taking it all in and might remember it after birth.
Lo and behold, when their baby was born they soon got a chance to see the magic for themselves. They read Can’t Wait to Show You to the newborn on a fussy day and were amazed to see him settle down and attend to the familiar words. Reading time continues to be a cherished part of their day and these proud parents say this is one of their little boy’s favorite books. This new family wholeheartedly agrees, It’s Never Too Early to Read to Your Baby!
So, from all your little friends at Belly Books, Happy National Reading Month!