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!
A very important quality that separates mammals from other creatures is our strong desire to protect and care for our young. Unlike a turtle, who lays her eggs in the sand, leaving the tiny baby turtles to return to the sea and fend for themselves alone, we mammals form a bond with our young — even before they are born — that continues for our whole lives.
A fascinating discovery was made recently about the special bond that mother dolphins create with their babies while they’re still in the womb. The aquarium staff at Six Flags Discovery Park in California started noticing that Bella, a pregnant bottlenose dolphin, was already sending out her “baby whistle” as she swam alone in the tank. It seemed Bella was talking to herself . . . or was she?
Once the baby dolphin was born, Bella continued her baby whistle, and the little one responded right away by coming to her side. It became clear that the prebirth baby whistle was Bella’s way of teaching her baby to recognize her voice so that she could call to it immediately, protecting the vulnerable baby right from the moment of its birth. Dolphins understand something innately that many of us in our culture are just coming around to: A baby in the womb in the last trimester can hear what’s going on in the world outside, and the opportunities for bonding before birth are countless. Pretty exciting, isn’t it?
Bella’s story illustrates how very natural it is to connect with our expected little one, and what better way to do that than by beginning a reading routine that, like Bella’s baby whistle, will be recognized and responded to by your baby at birth? You can actually begin a bedtime-story ritual during your last trimester that will condition your newborn to quiet down, settle in, and get sleepy. A simple, beautiful, rhyming and rhythmic story, read in your familiar voice, is just what is needed to regulate your baby’s alpha waves, slow his breathing and pulse, and get him primed for tuck-in time.
Begin this special bedtime routine now, while your baby is still curled up inside you, and you’ll reap the benefits when he is born. Research shows that having a regular bedtime helps babies to become conditioned to fall asleep each night, so set a regular time to slow your day down and read to your expected little one. Get cozy, relaxed, and comfortable and your baby will, too. Read in your regular voice (your baby has the best seat in the house) and know that you are establishing a beautiful and natural routine that will enrich, nurture, and support your child’s well-being in so many ways.
If you’re considering using an e-book for bedtime reading with a child, well, research says that it just won’t do. According to a recent National Literacy Trust study, children who engage with e-books have less engagement with a story and are less likely to grow up to be readers. Turns out that a story on a tablet is perceived by children, especially young ones, as more of a gaming than a reading experience. Additional research says that the screen time before bed interacts negatively with brain waves, getting them wound up instead of quieted down to alpha. Not exactly an effective way to get your child settled down to sleep.
Of course, those who love reading know there’s nothing like a real, holdable paper book. When you read a real book with your newborn, turning the pages and looking at the bright illustrations, you will get his visual as well as his auditory attention. You’ll also be setting him up with those prereading skills we’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, such as holding a book right-side-up and reading from left to right.
If you want the very best reading experience, and the most natural one for your baby before and after birth, there’s no substitute for the real thing. By establishing a quiet bedtime routine now, centered around your loving voice and a beautiful storybook, you will be delighted to find that you have a child who looks forward to winding down at bedtime, and whose biorhythms will be accustomed to settling down as he snuggles in at the same time each night.
So let’s get back to Bella, our dolphin. She knows how natural it is to talk to her baby in the womb—nothing fancy required, just her voice and her desire to connect with her little one. Your own perfectly natural instinct to communicate and bond with your baby can be reinforced by establishing a routine centered around literacy and language, right from the beginning. Research says that both babies in the womb and newborns respond to and learn best from text that is rhyming and rhythmic, and also that the baby knows your voice best. So your voice, plus a beautiful book, is the recipe for a natural language bond. We have just the thing . . .