When I started working for the Centre for Family Literacy, I worked with one program that served families with children 0 – 6 years old and another that served families with children 3-5 years old, and storytelling was a go-to activity for capturing the attention of preschool children and keeping them engaged. I loved it, and for years I wouldn’t read any book silently to myself because it was so much more fun to read them aloud.
And then I took on the Books for Babies program, and all my storytelling skills fell flat. Not entirely flat, but the stories written in books were obviously not written for babies. Babies have a much shorter attention span, a limited experience of the world, and only the beginnings of an understanding of what a story is.
So, when we talk about sharing books with babies, reading the words in the books is pretty far down the list of what we are going to do with the books when we share them. We want to help babies understand how books work, what they can do with them, and how the books relate to their world in a way that they can understand.
We will need to get creative, and we will need to experiment to find out what your babies respond to now. I’ll get us started with some ideas, but please add your own in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog.
- You’re probably not trying to teach your babies to read, but you are helping them to build a relationship with books.
- The following are prompts for you. Your babies might be able to do some of the things in these lists, but we’ll start by trying to capture their interest.
- Try only a couple of ideas at a time. You are testing for their reaction, but you already know their patience is limited for trying new things.
Books as pictures
- What is this a picture of?
- What sound does it make?
- What colour is it?
- What shape is it?
- What would it feel like?
- What would it taste like?
- Do we have one of those?
- How does it make you feel?
- Where did you last see one of those? Could you go see one of those?
- What does that remind you of?
- What does it look like upside-down?
- That person/animal/robot looks just like/nothing like you.
Books as objects
- Pile them up.
- Line them up.
- Knock them down.
- Open and close them.
- Turn the pages back and forth.
- Shake them.
- Spin them.
- Slide them around.
Books as prompts
- Does it remind you of a song or rhyme?
- Does it remind you of another story?
- Does it remind you of your father/grandmother/guinea pig/etc.?
- Is there an idea for something to eat?
- Is there an idea for something to do?
- Can you pretend to do/be that?
- Act out this story together, with puppets and toys, or on our own.
When there’s a face
- Make that same face/expression.
- Make up a name and backstory for this character.
If you would like more information about books and babies, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for tip sheets, a link to Flit the fun family literacy app, and program information for Edmonton.