Parents Need to Know:
- Teaching early literacy skills is time-sensitive
- You are your child’s first and most influential teacher
- Early (or emergent) literacy centers on learning language and pre-reading skills
- It is essential for parents to give your baby early literacy experiences, as early literacy impacts much more than your baby's ability to learn their ABC's - it has a significant impact on every part of their lives.
- Adding early literacy rituals into a baby's daily life will positively impact their holistic well-being
- The benefits of regular early literacy routines are both immediate and long term, extending well into your child's future as an adult
- Strong and consistent early literacy routines should include parents reading, talking, singing, playing and writing with their baby
- Early literacy rituals help a baby to:
- Connect with their parents and caregivers
- Connect with the world around them
- Connect with themselves
- Develop physically
- Build the foundation for their future independence, successes, and health
For a more detailed explanation on the benefits of early literacy, read on! Not ready to start this post now? Bookmark or share it for reference!
5 Ways an Early Literacy Ritual is Good for your Baby's Holistic Well-Being
1. Early Literacy Practices Help Your Baby to Connect with You.
Back to chest - dim light,
The sound of turning pages,
And breath - warm, loving.
That is what my memory of being read to is. Do you remember what it felt like to be read to by your parents or teacher? Chances are it felt good - really good! The best part about being read to is being so close to the people that you love the most.
Once born, your baby’s first need is to feel love and to connect - this is why skin-to-skin contact is so powerful. This is why hearing your heartbeat through your chest and the soft cadence of your voice makes a newborn settle and quickly feel so secure.
So when should parents start adding early literacy rituals like reading aloud, singing and talking?
From the womb. And if not then, from birth.
Your baby's early literacy journey actually begins before they leave the womb. Before they are even born they have begun to learn the rhythms of speech and have already learned to recognize (and prefer) your voice. So when you hold your baby close to talk softly, sing a lullaby, read a book, or gently play, your baby will feel warm, comfortable, safe and loved, especially during the fourth trimester when everything is brand new, and can seem scary or overstimulating.
Reading, talking, singing, playing - and eventually writing - are all opportunities to make the first and most meaningful connection that is possible with your baby. By intentionally incorporating a predictable daily ritual like talking softly while they feed, singing the same song before bed, or reading right before a nap, you are strengthening your emotional bond with your little one (and as a bonus decreasing your stress levels!). Not only do these routines support the development of fundamental language and communication skills, they also create opportunities for incredibly powerful serve-and-return interactions which will help your baby develop a secure attachment.
2. Early Literacy Practices Help Your Baby to Connect with the World.
Did anyone ever share with you what your first words were? Around the world, no matter the language, babies tend to learn the same words first. The earliest words are often those that little ones hear repeatedly. They are also words that name the people and things in their environment that are important to them. First words are those that help little ones meaningfully engage and interact with their world. They are words like “mommy” and “daddy”, “hi” and “bye”, “ball”, “cat” and of course, “no”.
Babies have to learn everything about the world once they enter it. They are managing both the experiencing of millions of brand new sights, sounds, smells, sensations, tastes and feelings, and the job of making meaning of it all. It is quite a remarkable task. While simple things like an apple, a bubble, or a cat are often mundane for adults, they are positively enthralling for our youngest learners. Early literacy practices such as reading, talking, singing, playing and writing with your baby provide so much opportunity for them to have more meaningful sensory experiences, and embark upon rich physical and cognitive explorations. Early literacy rituals such as reading books to introduce baby to the different animals on our planet, their favourite food or brand new big feelings, as well as talking or singing about the many different things that they come across throughout their day, will support the development of your baby’s vocabulary and their ability to make text to world connections. One day, your baby will have the realization that the apple that The Very Hungry Caterpillar eats looks very similar to the apple in the fruit bowl on your counter. While these developments might seem small, they are foundational for your child to learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Moreover, studies have also shown that when parents read with their babies their little ones develop increased attention, memory, and focus - abilities which make it easier for us to meaningfully engage with the world as children and adults.
3. Early Literacy Practices Help Your Baby to Connect with Themselves.
Have you seen videos of the exact moment babies first realize that they have hands, or feet, or shadow? It is utterly mesmerizing (and maybe a bit terrifying). Maybe you have seen the Instagrammable nursery walls with baby names proudly displayed in laser-cut metal - the first letter a child often learns is the first letter of their name, much like the first words they are likely to hear, it is one of the first letters that they are likely to see or be pointed out to them. Early literacy rituals like reading, talking, singing, playing and writing will help support your baby not only to understand the things around them, but to understand their own physical body, their many powerful emotions, and the significance of their name and role in your unique family. With your support, your baby will recognize and eventually label these parts of themselves, and develop the ability to use functional language to have their needs met, and likes or dislikes heard. This all supports their ability to understand themselves, both independently and in relation to others and the world around them. As an added benefit, studies show that children's literature can help support socio-emotional development, that is their ability to understand and regulate their emotions.
4. Early Literacy Practices Help Your Baby Make the Brain Connections that Develop Visual, Fine, and Gross Motor Skills.
Your baby's favourite thing to look at will be you and the faces of other loved one's for quite a while. As a newborn their eyesight is not fully developed at birth, but they can best focus on things around 8 inches to 12 inches away from them - which just so happens to be the perfect distance from where they rest in your arms to your face. Face your baby towards you as you softly tell stories, sing songs, play and share how much they are loved, this supports their brain development immensely. Over time they will make the connections needed to find your face in a sea of others, and decode your facial expression for meaning.
You can offer your baby high-contrast books or cards for viewing which supports them in developing better focus; and if the cards are set in motion, developing the skill to track moving objects. Talking about what your little one is seeing using descriptive language is a perfect way to ensure that they are making vital connections to support both their physical and cognitive development.
With time your baby will work to develop fine motor skills to take advantage of their improved sight. Examining black and white patterns during tummy time will not only benefit their vision, but the development of essential fine and gross motor skills. Intentionally adding baby books to their daily selection of play toys gives your little one the chance to practice holding themselves upright to see an object of interest, to reach and grasp for objects of varying sizes and dimensions, to feel different textures, to figure out how to use their hands and fingers to flip the pages of books or manipulate toys in different ways, and to move or roll to get closer to the objects of their focus - and that would likely once again, be you!
5. Early Literacy Practices Connect your Baby to their Future Independence, Success and Health.
This might sound like a reach. It isn't. There is a time-sensitive window within which your baby can effectively learn essential early literacy skills. Whether you provide literacy rich experiences in a literacy rich environment will have lasting, lifelong impact on your baby. Early literacy routines help build the foundations for your little one's future. Your baby's early literacy skills at 4 is predictive of their development at the end of the 4th grade. Add to this, the fact that your little one's skill set at the end of 4th grade is predictive of whether or not they will graduate high school. Ensuring that your little one has literacy rich experiences in a literacy rich environment will support them to develop high literacy levels. This makes it more likely that your baby will grow to have academic success, financial success, and the skills necessary to maintain and improve their health as adults.
Literacy will impact every facet of your baby's life. When you add early literacy routines and rituals during the critical period between 0 and 3, the benefits are not only immediate - sharing a laugh, a smile or warm moment - but long lasting as they stretch into their ability to function in the workplace and navigate the ever expanding world.
If you are a parent looking to add more reading, talking, singing, playing, and writing into your little one's daily life, or for ideas on what makes a literacy rich environment, check out our Instagram or TikTok pages.