As crazy as it may sound, developing children's literacy skills actually begins during pregnancy. Yes, I'm serious. Many researchers believe that the first step in language development begins when mothers talk to their babies while they're still in their bellies. Most also believe that babies get used to the sound of their mother's voice and that when a baby is born, that familiarity lends itself to quicker recognition and a fast bond after birth.
Naturally, after a baby is born it is very helpful to them for their parents to continue speaking, not only around them, but TO them as well. Babies will start to recognize sounds and get to know gestures and facial expressions. Babies learn so much from the sights and sounds around them and will in time begin to try to imitate the sounds their parents make. This is all part of the process of babies figuring out how we, as humans, communicate with each other. They will start to recognize how we relay information to each other in narrative form and begin to learn how to do that themselves.
You'll start to see a child's story-telling skills emerge in their early speech/toddler days when they launch into those long, animated baby monologues. You can't help but listen intently to these stories they tell and do your best to follow along because the child is so excited in relaying the details to us. It is very much like watching a soap opera on the Spanish channel. If you watch it long enough, you begin to follow the story, even if you don't understand a word of it. That is the power of the narrative and the baby has learned that skill from watching us and listening to us.
Parents should use every opportunity throughout the day to talk to their baby about anything and everything. It's a great way to build up the babies' early literacy foundation. When washing the dishes or making dinner or cleaning up, parents can explain the tasks they are doing to their baby. Babies will begin to hear familiar words if the parents are in the habit of doing this frequently. And I'm not talking about "goo-goo-gah-gah" here. Actually speak real words to your child...like you would to any other person. "Baby talk" like that drives me crazy.
Experts suggest that parents speak properly to their children so that the child can have the most possible exposure to the correct sound of words. For example, if a child has their own "baby word" for banana, and the parent constantly uses that "baby word" back to the child, they are only reinforcing the incorrect pronunciation.
And of course, IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO START READING TO YOUR CHILD!
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