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:

Socioemotional development(1) Mayo(1) Snack Time(1) Photographs(1) annual conference(1) Health(2) structure(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) maternity health(1) child-centred approach(1) National Awards 2018(2) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) keep in touch(1) code of ethics(1) Nonverbal(1) science(3) eating(1) Feeding(1) Social Skills(1) Growing up Outdoors(2) Recycling(2) Potential(1) Investment(2) Early Years Educators(3) Performance Management(1) Inspiring Practice(1) International Narratives(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) friendships(1) story time(2) Mantra(1) Leprechauns(1) Mo Scéal(1) World book day(1) Autism(4) Síolta(138) Document Learning(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Infection Control(1) Wesco(1) Story(2) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) listening(1) Builders(1) Looking Back(1) Treasure(1) Masterclass(2) Cork Institute of Technology(1) listen(1) Brain(1) community(5) Book Review(1) Communicating(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Early Childhood Education(1) ECCE(7) Care routines(1) Plants(1) Light table(1) Dance(1) Childhood(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Queues(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) refugees(1) Grief(1) Decisions(1) Child mental health(1) Vertical grouping(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Early Years(1) ears(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Intention(1) Policy(2) Digital(1) Mixed age groups(3) St. Patrick's Day(1) Empathy(1) early years settings(1) Snacks(1) ECEC(3) play stories(2) Belonging(3) Self-Esteem(1) SPICE Framework(1) reading(6) Line-ups(1) animals(2) Norway(2) Wrapping paper(1) Teamwork(1) outdoor environment(1) Snakes(1) Sequins(1) value(1) Window(1) peer group(1) GoToMeeting app(1) National Awards 2019(1) lockdown(1) Environment(2) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) DCYA(6) Maternity Leave(1) Meal time(1) Consent(1) Your place(1) Care-giving routines(1) Awards Night(1) Certificate(1) Painting(1) creche(1) early childhood ireland research(1) outdoors(4) an post(1) curriculum(5) bonds(1) Funding(1) CPD(1) Mindfulness(3) Biting(1) play pods(2) Trade union(1) Primary School(3) Learning through Storytelling(2) EECERA(1) Blocks(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Montessori(3) Kilkenny(1) Rich Documentation(1) Trick or treat(1) Learning Stories(9) Maria Montessori(1) christmas(9) Through the looking glass(1) stories(3) Decision Making(1) apps for children(1) Seas Suas(1) Return to Work Training(1) Event Guide(1) Games(1) budget(1) Workforce(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) learning bias(1) SAC(1) Loss(1) Child Care(1) University(1) Exploratory Play(1) Exclusion(1) Infectious diseases(1) Traffic Lights(1) Facebook(1) preschool(4) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Childcare(3) developing motor skills(1) E.coli(1) ERASMUS+(3) Fabric(1) ICBN(1) Impact(1) Learning journals(1) Fee Play(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Awards 2019(1) Japan(1) National Holiday(1) Magnavacchi(1) mushrooms(1) early childhood(1) role playing(1) Self Help Skills(1) Kindness Challenge(1) children’s learning(1) collaboration(1) AsIAm(2) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Pobal(1) Anthony Semann(1) Adoption(1) Behaviour(3) Opportunities(1) Community involvement(1) Prexit(1) social media(2) respect(5) Reggio Children Network(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) Engagement(1) Limerick(1) Orla Kenny(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Challenges(1) Culture(2) National Childcare Scheme(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) family time(1) Penguins(1) phone apps(1) blog(54) Pen green(1) Mud kitchens(1) life long learning(1) Awards(2) childcare services(1) dining experiences(1) Margy Whalley(1) Maths Week(1) Identity(5) Home Corner(1) partnership(1) Quality(4) partnership with families(1) dogs(1) reopening(1) homeschool(1) documentation(4) Covid pandemic(3) NCCA(3) Early Years Education(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Academics(1) UN(1) Participation(2) worries(1) Professionalisation(5) Treasure Chest(1) social media policy(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) conversations(1) Reggio(1) ECIAwards20(1) Reopening Childcare(1) Scéalta Blog(104) Inspections(1) Children(5) early years learning(1) Traditions(2) annual awards(1) Playdough(1) Research Conference 2019(1) baby room(1) Seanchaí(1) Youtube Series(1) Visitors(1) emotional environment(2) keezy(1) democratic citizens(1) Mealtimes(1) Inter-generational(2) research(6) Stress(2) Jenga(1) Party(1) risk(2) Favouritism(1) Fantasy play(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Mathematicians(1) Interactions(3) Anxiety(2) books(5) Scents(1) Leadership(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Support(1) Lego(2) STEM(3) Santa(2) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) inspiring interactions(1) Wonder(1) Giraffe(2) online training(1) Pretend Play(1) parents(6) early childhood educator(2) Twitter(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Building Resilience(1) Ariana Pucci(1) routine(2) Whole Group(1) Proceedings Journal(1) natural environment(1) School Age Childcare(1) Arlene Forster(1) Change(1) journey(1) COVID-19 landscape(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Thanks(1) Covid-19 lockdown(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Time Out(1) conference(1) Imagination(3) Exploring and Thinking(1) early year’s classrooms(1) Appreciation(1) Xbox(1) EECERA 2016(1) The Lullaby Book(1) primary education(1) Upcycling(1) Sleep(1) ECEC Setting(2) Names(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Maynooth University(2) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) TRAP(1) Educators(2) Awards 2018(3) CCTV(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Employee(1) Gratitude(1) outdoor space(3) purpose(1) mental health problems(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Children's Book Club(1) PIP(1) The Jelly King(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Arithmetic(1) Kerry(1) Supernanny(1) Children's Voice(1) IGL(1) behavioural science(1) Recycle(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) coronavirus(1) feisty(1) early years research(3) man up(1) educating(1) Self-regulation(1) First 5(1) gender stereotype(1) Interaction(1) emotional well-being(1) Arts(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Bereavement(2) multi-generational community(1) Small World Play(1) aistear blog(3) learners(1) UD(1) Flowers(1) Syria(1) Mount Everest(1) Halloween(2) Pedagogy(2) Wendy Lee(3) Art(6) Role play(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(2) play therapy(1) imotion(1) Technology(3) dublin(2) Touch(1) Elders(1) European Project(1) curiosity(3) Obesity(1) Budget 2018(1) Titles(1) education system(1) Covid response(2) Deirdre Rogers(1) COVID-19(15) New Appointments(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Counting(1) Early Childhood Ireland(10) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Budget 2019(2) Horizon 2020(1) HR(1) babies(7) Budget 2020(1) Design(1) bloom app(1) Large Doll Play(1) staying connected(1) Albert Einstein(1) Engineering(3) youdoodle(1) Capable(1) dining(1) Sculptures(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Diversity(1) Sweets(1) UNCRC(2) early life(1) Relaxation(1) supportive environments(2) Magic(1) communication(4) Sport(1) Visual Impairment(1) RTE Investigates(1) democracy(1) Study Trip(1) Interests(1) Mark Twain(1) Hand Hygiene(2) show and tell(1) art of the relationship(1) Sustainability(3) GDPR(1) Inspirational(2) planning(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) continual professional development(1) United Nations(1) Mental Health(4) child-centric(1) Learning Journal(2) NAEYC(1) Administrative Burden(1) MA(1) Easter(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Afghanistan(1) Learning Story(1) Graduate(1) STEAM(1) Little Buddies(1) education(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) children development(1) Workplace Relations(3) World Health Organisation(1) Storytelling(8) Magda Gerber(1) Communications(1) Buddy Bench(1) playleader(1) scientific and artistic processes(1) science week(2) Nutrition(1) Cognitive development(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) MECPI(1) code of professional responsibility(1) movement behaviours(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Exploring(1) Family wall(1) healthy eating policies(1) Trigonometry(1) pets(1) Body Language(1) TOY Programme(1) Maynooth(1) Creativity(6) Love(3) toddlers(3) Competent(1) Eritrea(1) interacting(2) College(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Inclusion(3) Engineers Week(2) Laughter(1) Well-Being(10) Pre-School Services(1) Frustrations(1) Smiles(1) Aistear(130) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Reggio Emilia(2) Emergent Curriculum(1) Running(1) Graduation(1) under 3's(3) Covid19 crisis(1) Irish(1) learning(19) relationships(18) Patterns(1) Settling in(4) Gardening(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) EM Standing(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Children and families(2) racism(1) play(35) Valerie Gaynor(1) Map(1) Maths(6) Confidence(1) Loving Relationships(2) Learning Story Awards(2) Malaguzzi(1) Music(3) Plastic(1) ELC(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Exit interview(1) overhear(1) Looking Forward(1) Craft(1) Exercise(1) Liz Kerrins(1) food(1) linc(1) Death(2) Thinking(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Weather(1) Time(1) Book Club(2) Positivity(1) Ceremony(1) RIE philosphy(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Independence(1) Universal Design(2) Our Little Seed(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Shapes(2) DES Inspection(1) Routines(2) Winter(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Human Resources(1) Reading Time(2) Thank you(1) Sustainable(1) quarantine(1) Siolta blog(8) Frosty the Snowman(1) Research Seminar(1) Staff Motivation(1) Glitter(2) First 5 strategy(1) Sessional service(1) memories(1) AIM(2) Performing(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) experience(1) Children's Research Network(2) risk assessment(1) Training(2) Trade Unions(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) risky play(2) Educator of the Year Award(3) Síolta QAP(1) ReCreate(2) Spiders(1) Wilenski(1) Irish guidelines(1) Academic Skills(1) Online Research Symposium(2) meals(3) Engineering Ireland(1) scéalta(57) Meet the Members(1) pablo(1) Italy(1) Buddies(1) San Miniato(4) Leargas(1) Kids Own(1) Inspired Practice Award(6) Laugh(1) Confident(1) environments(1) Iceland(1) Vietnam(1) iOS(1) play pod(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Qualifications(1) development(8) Breathing(2) Workplace well-being(1) Drawing(2) Children's Rights(3) trust(4) InspireMe.ie(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Advocacy(1) UNICEF report(1) Digital Devices(1) Iraq(1) Reflective Practice(1) Celebrate(1) preschool settings(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) built environments(1) Creative(1) grandchild(1) Shoes(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) reopening ireland(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Celebrations(4) social science(1) research submissions(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) responsive relationships(1) june29(1) Online(1) Summer(1) Playschool(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Kindness(1) transitions(10) gender bias(1) outdoor play(7) CIT(1) awards 2020(1) Valentine's Day(3) worldbookday(1) INTO(1) emotions(2) Family(1) Yoga(1) Rituals(1) learning hub(1) Cork(1) Affordability(1) Degree(1) educarer(1) Equality(1) Oireachtas(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine