A-B-C BOOKS FOR BABY
Toddlers learn their A-B-C’s through songs and books. One of the most popular songs taught in preschool or at home is the Alphabet Song. A popular baby book for learning the A-B-C’s is “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault. Reading and especially singing the A-B-C’s makes the letters of the alphabet familiar to baby through playful repetition. The playfulness packages the learning as fun. Think of singing as playful speech development. When parents sing the song to baby often, the child begins to learn the sequence of letters: “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, …” The more familiar the child is with the song the easier the learning may be. Babies enjoy listening to the Alphabet Song and would enjoy reading “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” Add this book to baby’s first library and learn the song in the above video.
Many parents remember the tale from their childhood with a smile on their face. The fun and energetic rhyme of alphabet letters climbing over each other to get to the top of the coconut tree is recanted through song in the above video from icnelly’s youtubc channel. We love this version of the rhyme because parents can learn it and sing it to baby. With its lullabye-like quality baby will enjoy it and soon will learn her A-B-C’s. Books for babies such as “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” make an entertaining break during a motor skill play session and are useful for wind-down time prior to a nap.
When developing baby’s first library please include a few counting books. One of Stellar Caterpillar’s favorites, of course, is Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” We love all things caterpillar because it is a symbol of both articulated movement and transformational growth. In Carle’s book the caterpillar of the story has a big appetite prior to going inside his cocoon and eventually breaking free as beautiful butterfly. Several pages in the book are designed to help baby learn to count. They are cleverly shortened and each item of food has a hold punched in it to assist in counting. This uses baby’s sense of touch to learn counting. As you model the touch by taking your index finger and poking each of the holes as you say “1, 2, 3,” she will soon learn to touch the holes in the same way. The variation in page width engages baby’s curiosity and one of the reasons young infants love this baby book.
The story is about the caterpillar’s appetite. The reader counts the foods, both healthy and unhealthy, that he eats. There is a subtle message about baby health and how eating green foods make you feel better as the caterpillar recovers from a binge on pie, cake and other sweets by eating a nice big green leaf. Another subtle diet message is about the need to eat in order to grow. The caterpillar’s appetite turns ravenous prior to the creation of his cocoon. This is useful as baby enters the toddler years and embraces her strong will at the dinner table with forceful expressions of “No.”
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is also a very colorful book. The prominent colors are bright colors that baby sees easily: red, green, yellow, and blue. For the young babies, point out the colors and as you name them, “Red.” Watch the beautifully animated video above from Mandy Banester’s youtube channel, and you will see the colors of the story are the bright colors from the natural world around us. Colors include those of the sun, plants and beautiful fresh fruits.
With every book you read to baby, find two or three words that are simple first words for baby. Each time you read the book, say those words clearly to her and invite her to repeat them. A few easy words in the caterpillar story are egg, sun, leaf, and apple. This is the beginning of speech development for baby. With repetition, she will enjoy saying the words too!
BABY BOOKS TEACH CONCEPTS OF SPATIAL ORIENTATION
Reading books teach babies more than just how to say new words. When selecting books for baby’s first library, think about what concepts the books are teaching. Some books teach colors or numbers, some teach the names of animals, and others stimulate the senses through touch and feel. Some of our favorite baby books teach concepts of spatial orientation. This means that baby learns the difference between on and off, in and out, under and above, and more. Baby learns these concepts in the context of the environment. For example, in “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell the animals hide under the rug, behind a door, and more. In Campbell’s story, the words “under” and “behind” are concepts of spatial orientation and the objects “the rug” and “a door” are the locations in the environment where these concepts occur.
BERENSTAIN BEARS BABY BOOKS
An outstanding baby book for teaching spatial concepts is “Inside, Outside, Upside Down” from the beloved Berenstain Bears collection. The main bear of the story takes a trip to town “inside a box” that gets placed “upside down” and “on a truck.” Baby learns the concepts of inside/outside a house as well as inside/outside a box. You can listen to a reading of the story in the above youtube video from NatalieStarfish’s youtube channel. A clear understanding of where one is in space is one of the most important aspects of motor skill development. This understanding develops a much higher level of skill in a child’s movement ability. Begin teaching these concepts early through baby books.
Inside, Outside, Upside Down: by Stan & Jan Berenstain. (New York: Random House, 1968.)
BABY BOOKS AND MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
A carefully chosen set of baby books makes a wonderful addition to your nursery. Part of the motor skills learned during baby’s first year include holding, opening, closing, turning pages, and pointing to pictures in a book. These fine motor skills develop the small muscles in the fingers and eyes. Hand-eye coordination also develops as baby’s curiosity guides her to open and look at the book. She learns to see an object and then point to it or to turn a page in order to see something new. She learns to focus her attention on something for quite awhile when she is “reading a story.” In order to capture her attention with books, carefully choose the books in baby’s first library.
10 CATEGORIES OF BABY BOOKS
When selecting books for baby, think about choosing books from various categories for a range of developmental benefits. For example, cloth books are best for younger babies. ABC and counting books teach skills that are different from the lift-the-flap books. Here are some categories of baby books to include in her library.
- CLOTH BOOKS – These are great books for newborns and 1-3 month old babies because the thick fabric pages cannot be torn. Baby also may fall on them in a playpen without harm.
- HIGH CONTRAST BOOKS – These books for newborn babies and 1-3 month old babies use contrasting colors such as black and white to create images that baby’s eyes can focus on at this stage of development. Tana Hoban’s “White on Black” is a great example of this category.
- TOUCH-AND-FEEL BOOKS – Books for babies to stimulate the sense of touch have patches of textured fabric added on to the pages. Sometimes it could be white and soft like the fur of the bunny in “Pat The Bunny,” a book recommended for the 1 to 3 month old babies.
- ABC BOOKS – Learning the letters of the alphabet begins with reading charming ABC books filled with rhymes, color and imagination. Dr. Seuss’ ABC’s is a favorite of many.
- COUNTING BOOKS – Whether it is “5 Little Monkeys Jumping On a Bed” or “10 Little Lady Bugs”, the goal of the book is to teach baby how to count. These are great books for toddlers.
- BEDTIME STORIES – Include a bedtime book in baby’s sleep ritual. The repetition of a classic bedtime story provides a nightly cue that it is time to go to sleep. A favorite for over 60 years is “Goodnight Moon.”
- RHYMING BOOKS – Dr. Seuss is the master of this category. Just think “The Cat in the Hat.” Rhyme makes learning words easier because it creates patterns which are easier to remember and to pronounce. For speech development, baby can focus on one particular sound at a time, such as the “at” in “Cat ” and “Hat.”
- BOOKS OF COLORS – Some of baby’s first words include colors. Books that focus on learning colors are a fun addition to the library, too.
- LIFT-THE-FLAP BOOKS – These books invite baby’s participation as she lifts the flaps to reveal what is hidden in a box, behind a door, under a stair, etc. Babies enjoy these books. One of our favorites is “Dear Zoo.”
- CLASSIC BOOKS – Baby books considered to be “classic” have been favorites for generations. When you hear a grandmother fondly remember “I read ‘Goodnight Moon’ to each of my children,” you know that she is talking about a classic book. They can be found in each of the above categories and are outstanding for the development of a baby. Click on the “Tools For Parents” table and see the “Best Books for Babies” which lists classic books for baby’s first library.
3 PARENTING TIPS FOR READING TO BABY
The speech and motor skill developmental milestones present some of the most important learning that occurs during baby’s first and second years of life. Just as we examine the mini-milestones which make up the large motor milestones, speech also develops in micro-stages. Develop baby’s first library with some classic baby books and begin reading early on. Even if she does not seem to be paying much attention to what you are saying because she is looking at something else, often she is listening and will occasionally wander back out of curiosity. The motor skill of sitting and paying attention to a book is very important learning during baby’s first year. We would like to share some of our tips for parents on how to read to baby.
TIP #1: READ TO BABY AND EXAGGERATE THE WORDS
Baby language development evolves through imitation. Babies try and copy what their parents and others around them are doing. In order to imitate speech, they need to watch them speak and study what they are doing with their lips as they speak. When you read to baby, she will watch your moving mouth very closely to see how you are creating words. As you exaggerate the words so they sound the same but she can see your mouth moving more clearly, it is easier for her to learn.
TIP #2: READ FAVORITE BABY BOOKS MULTIPLE TIMES
Through hearing a favorite baby book read repeatedly, baby begins to identify words more clearly. She may not be able to say them quite yet, but she begins to hear them. For example, soon baby recognizes the word “cat” from the book “The Cat In The Hat.” since it is a reoccurring word with an illustration. Over time, this repetition leads to anticipation. Baby learns to look forward to certain parts of the story or to seeing favorite animals.
TIP #3: READ TO BABY AND INVITE HER PARTICIPATION
Babies love to join a game. Peek-a-boo, rolling a ball, reading a story–they are all games for baby. However, it is up to you to show her the game. As you read her a baby book, point to the animals as you say “dog,” “cat,” “monkey,” and “lion.” After awhile you can ask her, “Where is the monkey,” “point to the lion,” and “can you find the dog?” Remember to praise baby when she answers correctly! As she learns to identify animals, objects, colors, etc., soon you can ask her to participate even more. Read the post on the baby book “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell and watch the accompanying youtube video of a father reading the story to his 20-month old son. The child has heard the story many, many times and loves it! Watch how he looks forward to naming the animals and to telling one line of the story that appears on each page–”Send him back!” His father invites his participation every step of the way and his son has made impressive speech development. And, better yet, both are having fun through the process!
Baby’s first library should contain a variety of books covering a range of topics such as animals, colors, letters of the alphabet, and counting numbers as well as a variety of activities such as touch-and-feel or lift-the-flap. We previously recommended “Pat the Bunny” as an example of a touch-and-feel book and now we suggest “Dear Zoo” as a classic lift-the-flap adventure. In the story a boy writes to the zoo and asks them to send him a pet. The zoo sends several animals, one at a time, that were not suitable to be the boy’s pet. Each animal hides in a box, under the bed, or in a closet for baby to discover when she lifts the flap which conceals the animal. The action of lifting the flap encourages some fine motor skill development or use of the pincer grasp. Once the animal is discovered the boy quickly sends him back to the zoo.
Babies love the activity and discovery with the lift-the-flap books. When parents read “Dear Zoo” over and over again spanning the course of several months the story predictable and promotes speech development for baby as he learns to say the names of the hidden animals or learns to say “send him back.” In our review of Dr. Seuss baby books we discussed the importance of repetition for speech development of a baby. In the above video from BrightFishSam’s youtube channel, the father has read this book many times to his son who enjoys blurting out the names of the animals. It is evident how much Sam loves discovering the animals and then sending them right back to the zoo. I guarantee he won’t be sending this book back to the library anytime soon.
Dear Zoo: by Rod Campbell. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982).