Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Books and stories are important in the early years

By: DR. MARY ROCHE

Tuesday 24 September 2019

If you were told that you could improve your child’s imagination, thinking ability, vocabulary, oral language, literacy skills, interpersonal relationships, empathy, attachment, and have great fun at the same time, you would rush to sign up for such an amazing programme. Imagine if you were told that you can do it yourself and it’s free? So, ‘what is this magic and where can I get some?’, you would ask.

Reading aloud to babies and young children will do all the above and more, and if you have access to a library, it can be completely free. Meghan Cox Gurdon says on page xiii of her 2019 book ‘The Enchanted Hour’:

‘A miraculous alchemy takes place when one person reads to another, one that converts the ordinary stuff of life – a book, a voice, a place to sit, and a bit of time – into astonishing fuel for the heart, the mind, and the imagination’.

Gurdon cites recent neuroscience to provide evidence that reading aloud can have ‘dazzlingly transformative’ effects on the brains of babies and young children. As they listen to a story and look at pictures and can interact with the person reading, their deep brain networks are stimulated, and their cognitive development is optimised. Because being read to is a warm and nurturing experience, empathy can be developed, and this, according to research, dramatically accelerates young children’s language acquisition and sets them on track to be ahead of their peers in school. As a former infant teacher, I can attest to this – the children who were read and spoken to, had language abilities that helped them in all kinds of developmental ways.

Being read aloud to and given the opportunity to chat about the book immerses us in words, visual images and in rhythms and cadences of speech that might not be available elsewhere. When I read ‘Kate and the Beanstalk’ to my then three-year-old nephew, we heard that Kate’s mother was in despair. We spoke about the word and I explained it as being ‘so sad you can’t think of anything happy’. We read books about treasure chests and avocado babies and knights in shining armour; about dinosaurs, sleepy animals, gruffalos, scarecrows and giants. We knew ‘Not Last Night but the Night Before’ off by heart. This last meant there were many pleasurable intertextual links made with well-known nursery rhymes.

Rhyming books are essential for pre-schoolers. The rhymes and catchy rhythms are universally appealing. They introduce babies to a shared culture, and they are a wonderful form of shared connection. They are easy to remember, and babies get great feedback when they supply an approximation of the key word. Imagine the scene: adult says ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the?’ baby supplies ’Waw!’ and everyone claps. Babies learn the pleasure and the power of repetition and the amazing payoff of the accompanying gestures and actions. Who does not recall the ‘do it again’ factor of reciting ‘Round and round the garden, catch the teddy bear’ or ‘This is the way the ladies ride’?

Picture books like ‘Peck Peck Peck’, ‘Hooray for Fish’ and ‘A Busy Day for Birds’, by Lucy Cousins, provide endless, interactive fun. Books like ‘Let’s Talk About Vehicles’ by Ronnie Randall and Britta Teckentrup can be superb sources of vocabulary development: ‘We ROLL on wheels! We FLOAT on water! We SKIM over ice and SOAR in the air.’

Traditional stories can scare, reassure and provide endless sources of discussion. Is Jack a hero? Should Goldilocks be punished?  Why didn’t The Little Red Hen’s friends help her?

Your local library will be invaluable. Put out the word to godparents, aunties, uncles and grandparents that book tokens make great presents. Then take the time to read – just ten minutes a day will change your child’s life. I’ll leave the last words to Mem Fox, from pages xii-xiii of her 2001 book, ‘Reading Magic’:

Children who realise in their first weeks and months of life that listening to stories is the purest heaven; who understand that books are filled with delights, facts, fun and food for thought; who fall in love with their parents, and their parents with them, while stories being shared; and who are read aloud to for ten minutes a day in their first five years, usually learn to read quickly, happily and easily. And a whole lot of goodness follows for the entire community.  

 

Bio

Dr Mary Roche is an education consultant. Passionate about the importance of dialogical pedagogy, literacy and children’s books in education, she is frequently invited to be a keynote speaker in Ireland and the UK. A former education lecturer and classroom teacher, Mary is the author of ‘Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks’ (Routledge 2015). A bookworm, she is at her happiest when immersed in good children’s literature.

 

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Lilian Joyce says:

    A wonderful reminder of how reading to babies and children impacts so positively on their development and learning,particularly on emotional development.

  2. Lilian Joyce says:

    A wonderful reminder of how reading to babies and children impacts so positively on their development and learning,particularly on emotional development. Some unfamiliar books to look out for too, thank you.

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Wesco(1) Role play(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Tuscan Approach(2) Supernanny(1) Funding(1) Quality(4) outdoor play(6) Party(1) National Awards 2019(1) Italy(1) IGL(1) Arithmetic(1) University(1) Jenga(1) Music(3) value(1) Whole Group(1) Imagination(3) Map(1) development(8) Magnavacchi(1) ECCE(6) Story(1) Meal time(1) Change(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Reflective Practice(1) Snack Time(1) Glitter(2) Yoga(1) Seas Suas(1) Cognitive development(1) Inclusion(3) risk assessment(1) Síolta(108) Xbox(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Creativity(4) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Children and families(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Síolta QAP(1) worries(1) Sculptures(1) trust(3) Brain(1) Children's Research Network(1) Maynooth University(1) life long learning(1) CIT(1) National Awards 2018(2) Academic Skills(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Positivity(1) Kilkenny(1) Stress(2) Self Help Skills(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Interests(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Wendy Lee(3) Arlene Forster(1) food(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Research Conference 2019(1) Inter-generational(2) Awards 2019(1) Mud kitchens(1) InspireMe.ie(1) Mount Everest(1) feisty(1) bonds(1) Capable(1) Sequins(1) Mental Health(3) Lego(2) Summer(1) UN(1) Titles(1) Budget 2019(2) education(2) Names(1) Independence(1) Games(1) Facebook(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Book Review(1) Creative(1) Leadership(1) animals(2) Shapes(1) risk(2) Routines(1) transitions(10) Health(2) Empathy(1) curriculum(5) Educators(1) PIP(1) Anxiety(2) Flowers(1) Patterns(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Trigonometry(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Interaction(1) collaboration(1) Elders(1) Mixed age groups(2) Potential(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Book Club(2) Snakes(1) Arts(1) Well-Being(9) Department of Education and Skills(1) Inspirational(2) First 5 strategy(1) Identity(5) Universal Design(2) Valerie Gaynor(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) GDPR(1) DCYA(4) Care routines(1) Light table(1) Training(2) Eritrea(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Workplace Relations(3) blog(28) Communications(1) Through the looking glass(1) Wonder(1) reading(5) Research and Professional Learning(1) Wrapping paper(1) Certificate(1) Thank you(1) Our Little Seed(1) Rich Documentation(1) Trick or treat(1) Favouritism(1) grandchild(1) baby room(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Research Seminar(1) College(1) Support(1) Snacks(1) babies(7) Love(2) Body Language(1) Recycling(2) experience(1) Intention(1) The Jelly King(1) Celebrate(1) Policy(2) Afghanistan(1) Buddy Bench(1) listen(1) linc(1) Easter(1) Children's Rights(3) Scents(1) Scéalta Blog(91) friendships(1) learning(19) Socioemotional development(1) Loss(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Qualifications(1) INTO(1) Spiders(1) Syria(1) Graduation(1) Competent(1) Consent(1) Gratitude(1) Drawing(2) mushrooms(1) Teamwork(1) Reggio(1) NCCA(3) community(5) Primary School(2) UD(1) Sustainability(3) Leaders in Practice(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Thinking(1) Fantasy play(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Grief(1) Technology(3) Participation(2) Learning Story(1) Behaviour(3) Japan(1) ERASMUS+(3) planning(1) Meet the Members(1) Maria Montessori(1) HR(1) Magda Gerber(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Event Guide(1) Workplace well-being(1) Little Buddies(1) outdoors(3) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Home Corner(1) Childhood(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Engagement(1) Human Resources(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) outdoor space(3) Challenges(1) books(4) eating(1) STEM(3) EECERA 2016(1) dublin(2) Mark Twain(1) Buddies(1) Upcycling(1) Self-regulation(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Children(3) Playdough(1) scéalta(29) National Holiday(1) dining(1) School Age Childcare(1) E.coli(1) Orla Kenny(1) Family wall(1) Social Skills(1) Window(1) Thanks(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) role playing(1) respect(5) Halloween(2) Diversity(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Maynooth(1) Performance Management(1) Pobal(1) UNCRC(1) Vertical grouping(1) Blocks(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Nutrition(1) Iraq(1) Siolta blog(4) Aistear(113) stories(2) Margy Whalley(1) Degree(1) Digital Devices(1) Building Resilience(1) AIM(2) Fabric(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) MECPI(1) Craft(1) TOY Programme(1) Photographs(1) Exercise(1) ICBN(1) Awards 2018(3) General Data Protection Regulation(1) science week(2) Irish(1) Staff Motivation(1) Design(1) Appreciation(1) Care-giving routines(1) Cork(1) meals(3) Touch(1) under 3's(3) Interactions(2) Academics(1) Settling in(4) First 5(1) Builders(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Sport(1) documentation(3) Queues(1) Autism(3) Family(1) Advocacy(1) Affordability(1) Exclusion(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Laugh(1) Montessori(3) Decision Making(1) Infectious diseases(1) Sleep(1) Leargas(1) RIE philosphy(1) Self-Esteem(1) Rituals(1) New Appointments(1) Maths(5) Breathing(2) christmas(9) Storytelling(4) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Limerick(1) refugees(1) Nonverbal(1) toddlers(3) Oireachtas(1) Leprechauns(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Sustainable(1) Awards(2) Feeding(1) Professionalisation(4) Trade union(1) Impact(1) Children's Voice(1) Ceremony(1) Death(2) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) risky play(2) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Investment(2) Workforce(1) Culture(2) Maths Week(1) journey(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Giraffe(2) Mantra(1) early years research(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Graduate(1) listening(1) Visual Impairment(1) Mayo(1) Fee Play(1) Decisions(1) Learning Stories(9) Gardening(1) Early Years(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Adoption(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Playschool(1) Learning Stories Award(3) AsIAm(1) United Nations(1) Trade Unions(1) Reggio Children Network(1) routine(2) Recycle(1) Budget 2020(1) early childhood educator(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Confidence(1) conversations(1) Painting(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Time(1) emotional environment(1) Mo Scéal(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) National Pyjama Day(1) emotions(2) Smiles(1) supportive environments(2) Twitter(1) RTE Investigates(1) Exit interview(1) Time Out(1) Art(6) ECEC(1) Mealtimes(1) overhear(1) Frustrations(1) Iceland(1) purpose(1) Learning journals(1) DES Inspection(1) EM Standing(1) story time(2) Child mental health(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) San Miniato(4) Emergent Curriculum(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Community involvement(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Masterclass(2) MA(1) Sweets(1) Performing(1) dogs(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Line-ups(1) Winter(1) Belonging(3) Albert Einstein(1) ReCreate(2) educarer(1) Communicating(1) interacting(2) play(32) Exploring(1) Relaxation(1) San Minia(1) Bereavement(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Engineers Week(2) Malaguzzi(1) NAEYC(1) Digital(1) dining experiences(1) Inspections(1) Shoes(1) Obesity(1) Celebrations(4) play stories(1) Maternity Leave(1) Running(1) Infection Control(1) parents(5) Plastic(1) European Project(1) Mindfulness(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) maternity health(1) Biting(1) Engineering(3) communication(4) Childcare(2) Dance(1) pets(1) environments(1) Prexit(1) Norway(2) Early Years Educators(2) Budget 2018(1) Traditions(2) Santa(2) Mathematicians(1) Study Trip(1) educating(1) Vietnam(1) memories(1) Weather(1) Penguins(1) child-centred approach(1) curiosity(3) Visitors(1) TRAP(1) ears(1) Valentine's Day(3) social media(1) Early Learning and Care(1) relationships(17) Environment(2) research(6) Pen green(1) Reggio Emilia(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Magic(1) Hand Hygiene(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Traffic Lights(1) science(3) Special Needs Assistants(1) Treasure(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Employee(1) CPD(1) Confident(1) Online(1) Learning Journal(1) Administrative Burden(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Document Learning(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Horizon 2020(1) CCTV(1) Kerry(1) Treasure Chest(1) Plants(1) Kids Own(1) Motor neuron disease(1) SPICE Framework(1) Laughter(1) preschool(2) budget(1) Wilenski(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine