“Making Books Part of a Healthy Childhood”

17730593_sReach out for your favorite book. Reach out to a child and share a story together. Reach out to thousands of parents and give them free books to share with their children. Reach out to pediatricians and nurses across the country to educate them about the benefits to children of a regular storytime, and train them to teach this to their patients. Reach Out and Read!

Thanks to the nonprofit organization Reach Out and Read, receiving a picture book has become a regular part of many a child’s first well-baby visit. ROR “builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy.” It’s become mainstream practice for pediatricians to give books, right along with checkups, to young patients in over 5,000 Reach Out and Read program sites in the U.S. Participating doctors and nurses have provided almost 7 million books to children and families nationwide!

Reach Out and Read Washington State
Reach Out and Read Washington State

The best part is that not only are doctors and nurses providing the first book to families who may not otherwise have access to them, but they also dispense invaluable advice about the benefits of adopting a storytime routine right from the start. Reach Out and Read actively trains health care practitioners so that they can share with patients the most recent research and practices in reading aloud to children, as well as specific instructions to begin reading, talking and singing to babies as a regular part of raising a healthy child.

This wonderful organization has been reaching out for over 25 years! But most recently some major wind has been added to their sails by a strong public recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, our country’s largest and most respected group of children’s healthcare professionals. As we reported in our June 2014 post, the AAP said that parents should read to their babies as early as possible, that reading is an “essential” element of doctor visits, and that the benefits and implications for brain development, language acquisition, and family bonding, among others, are boundless. Pediatricians were urged to convey the message that reading regularly with children is paramount to their health and well-being.

None of this was surprising to the folks at ROR, but the AAP’s public recommendation inspired the creation of a dream team of literacy advocates that further empowered their mission. This powerhouse collaborative includes not only ROR and the AAP but also Too Small to Fail, a Clinton Foundation initiative, and Scholastic Books, one of the leaders in the children’s book industry. This collaborative has been educating the public about the importance for children of early exposure to language and literacy. Their work has already had a powerful impact on parents, educators, literacy advocates, medical professionals, and policymakers across the country and around the globe.

123rfReach Out and Read is an “evidence-based” organization that has piloted many of its own studies to lend to the body of research supporting this practice. One such study, published in the journal Pediatrics in May 2004, found a direct correlation between the number of ROR interactions a family was exposed to during well-child visits and the number of literacy-centered activities that took place in a child’s home. They found that even “a modest literacy intervention such as ROR can have a significant impact on a child’s home literacy environment,” and that children who had a great deal of ROR interaction reported that reading was one of their favorite activities.

Just last month, the organization began another very exciting pilot study with families of babies in the NICU at Boston City Medical Center to discover the impact that regular read-aloud time has on premature infants. Previous research has shown that “premature infants are exposed to less language in utero and after birth than term infants” and that “early language exposure is essential for normal language development.” In the study, ROR and professionals at the Boston City Medical center will provide literacy-centered education and interaction for the first five years of each child’s life and measure the child’s engagement with books and reading.

Graham's Foundation
Graham’s Foundation

This exciting pilot study builds on a recent discovery that babies in the NICU develop the language and auditory centers in their brains more quickly when their mothers read to them regularly. As found by previous studies we’ve reported here, babies learn language from their mother during the last trimester, but babies born too soon are deprived of this essential developmental period. However, it appears that these premature infants can catch up to their full-term counterparts when they hear stories, lullabies and songs for a few hours each day. By having parents read to premature babies, and then throughout their childhood, ROR hopes to add to their growing body of evidence about the positive effects that shared family storytime has on a child’s growth, development and well-being.

ReadingOf course, we at the Reading Womb always want to take it a step further! Many family practices that utilize ROR include obstetrics, and maybe someday they will also educate expectant parents about the importance of reading aloud to babies in the womb. In addition to all the benefits of in utero reading that we regularly touch upon here, the practice offers valuable support to new parents who want to incorporate storytime into their newborn’s daily schedule. All parents want to do what’s best for their baby, but when she finally arrives they may find themselves overwhelmed by all their new responsibilities. Three (or more) months of rehearsal would be a huge help!

AfterAfter a period of practicing reading to their baby in utero, during that time of relatively quiet anticipation before their lives change so dramatically, reading aloud to their newborn will be one of the few tasks that new parents will feel competent in. They can fall into a storytime routine that’s comfortingly familiar — even to baby, who’s been listening avidly from inside the womb — and it will become a cherished family ritual with lifelong benefits.

Thank you for the great work that you do, Reach Out and Read, and the precious gift you’re giving to families. Your reach extends far and wide!

In distinguished company

MCA_PH_400x400We couldn’t be more proud and pleased to announce that Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be, the first board book specially written and shaped for expectant parents to read to their baby in utero, has been distinguished by the Mom’s Choice Awards with a gold medal!

The Reading Womb and Belly Books wholeheartedly share Mom’s Choice’s mission of “helping families grow emotionally, spiritually and physically.” We’re proud to show off its seal of approval, which reflects “the best in family-friendly media, products and services.”

You’ve probably come across Mom’s Choice seals on your favorite kids’ books for years. In their words, “Products and services bearing the companys mother-and-child Honoring Excellence Seal of Approval have earned the MCA distinction for helping families grow emotionally, physically and spiritually; being morally sound and promoting good will; and inspirational and uplifting.”

Here’s how the organization describes this prestigious award:

It’s our joy to acknowledge those who are fueled only by their passion to make a better world as they write an inspiring book or design a helpful product. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and the media trust us for our product reviews and evaluations.

Family ReadIt truly is our passion to make a better world by helping parents understand the enormous benefits — and the intrinsic rewards — of establishing a regular family reading time even before baby is born. Reading enhances not only brain and cognitive development but the parent-child bond. Reading brings with it not only worlds of adventure and learning, but vast possibilities of connection between human beings. And the amazing fact is that the baby in the third trimester of pregnancy is already able to join in this miraculous process.

Please stop by the Mom’s Choice Winners Shop and browse their extensive catalogue, and then have a look at their Mom’s Choice Matters blog. Of course, if you haven’t already gotten your copy of Can’t Wait to Show You, you can order it here!

NewbornThank you so much, Mom’s Choice Awards! We promise to make you proud.

Let’s make it a movement!

Dear readers,

FutureThe recent upsurge of interest you’ve shown in the benefits of in utero reading has been very exciting for us to watch, as has been the continuing stream of scientific research into the subject.

Now we’re asking ourselves: What will transform this interest into a movement? And we think the answer is: lots more anecdotal evidence from parents themselves, not to mention grandparents and others closely involved in the pregnancy and birth.

So we’re putting out a call, urging you more strongly than ever to give this practice a try,  to add to the body of informal research and watch how the movement grows. Will the next generation be even more sensitive, curious, and intelligent than the last?

HappyTo make it really easy for you, we’re offering a crazy discount on our beautiful board book, Can’t Wait to Show You, created specially for reading to the baby in the womb.

From now until August 10, use promo code 2V39994M for a full $5 off every purchase on Amazon!

And don’t be shy about reporting your experiences with us! You can share your stories, maybe even your before-and-after photos, via a blog comment, email, Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon review.

Now, just in case you need more motivation to overcome a bit of skepticism, or even a feeling of awkwardness about reading to an unseen listener, here is a quick review of the benefits of reading to babies before and after birth. . .

FamilyAn abundance of research over the last several years has shown that babies in the third trimester of pregnancy can hear and recognize words spoken by their mother (and father and others, too), and remember them after birth. There is conclusive and compelling evidence showing that the benefits of reading to your baby before birth are immediate and long-lasting.

Your baby will become familiar with your unique voice: Research shows that babies recognize the voice of their mother at birth and can distinguish their mother’s voice from that of a stranger.

LoveBonding with your baby prenatally benefits his future health and emotional well-being: When a pregnant woman feels love for her expected child in the womb, she releases endorphins (“feel good” hormones), which trigger the same hormone release in the baby. The result is a baby who has unhindered physical, cognitive, and neurological growth, and who is born with a general sense of safety and well-being.

When you take time to relax and read, your baby relaxes, too: When an expectant mother’s heartbeat and breathing slow down, her baby responds physiologically, endocrinologically, and neurologically. These responses have a positive effect on the baby’s growth and development.

Your baby will begin to learn language: Hearing speech patterns and rhythms in the womb begins to teach babies their primary language.

RaptA familiar, rhythmic story will soothe your newborn: Newborn babies show a clear preference for the rhythm and melody of a song or poem that they heard regularly from the womb. Babies actually remember a rhythmic poem or story that they heard during the last trimester for up to four weeks after birth, and they’re measurably calmed by that familiar story.

The more words your baby hears, the better adjusted and more successful she will be in life: There is a direct correlation between the amount that parents talk to babies and their academic and social success. The more words a baby hears in the early years, the more advanced her language and literacy development will be in the future.

SharingReading to your child before and after birth strengthens family and social bonds: Establishing a routine around reading creates a sacred, centered, regular time devoted to you and your child. This helps expectant parents and siblings develop a relationship with the baby before birth, easing the transition into parenthood and siblinghood. In the bigger picture, family reading helps establish a culture in which literacy and language are a priority.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read to their baby as early as possible: Establishing a regular reading routine before birth is one of the very best things parents can do for their children, and at last there’s a book especially designed for the purpose! Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be, has all the research-recommended ingredients for inspiration and success:

  • The rollicking rhythm and rhymes are easy to read and will be soothing music to baby’s ears.
  • Visual appeal for the newborn: This bright and colorful board book will capture baby’s attention, and the chunky design and easy-to-grasp pages are baby-friendly.Enjoy
  • The sweet verses and illustrations allow the expectant mother to celebrate this time of joyful anticipation.
  • As a fun, unique bonus, this sturdy board book, made in the USA, is uniquely shaped to rest comfortably over the pregnant belly and then over the newborn’s belly when he or she arrives!

Yes, expectant Mum, you can celebrate Mother’s Day, too!

16638831_sDuring your last trimester, it really does become obvious that your bump is not just a bump, that your little son or daughter is in there, ready to be born and meet you. You have felt him twist and poke you from inside and watched your belly roll and wave. You’ve seen his little nose and toes on the ultrasound — he’s already a perfect little person, cozy in his warm, safe space. Yes, you are a mother, and you have lots to celebrate on this holiday dedicated to you.

You’re so eager to meet this little one who has been close to you for months! What will it be like to hold him and see his face for the very first time? The last months of pregnancy are exciting, and as your belly grows larger, so does your love for your baby, who will be arriving very soon. It’s so hard to wait, isn’t it?

24446382_sBut here’s the incredible news. You may not yet know your baby, but your baby definitely knows you! He knows the rhythms of your body, your waking and sleeping cycles, when and what you eat, when you’re active or still, and most importantly, he knows your voice . . . intimately.

Compelling new research shows that your voice plays as crucial a role in your baby’s growth and development as the healthy foods you’ve been eating all these past months. So although you have to wait a bit to hold your baby in your arms, you can begin nurturing him immediately, through the magical power of your unique voice.

Special Mother’s Day Gift! You or your expectant loved one can try reading in utero with our beautiful board book created specially for the purpose. Click here  and enter promo code W49ZZ9DQ  to get Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be for $3 off until May 31, 2015.

Researchers at Harvard University Medical School recently reported their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finding that an expectant mother’s voice plays a vital role in the development of the language centers in a baby’s brain. According to the study, a mother’s voice provides “the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.”

Preg ReadNot only does talking to your bump help you to bond with your little one, but it actually helps his brain to grow!

If you’ve been following the Reading Womb blog, then you’re familiar with all the previous studies that show the importance of a mother’s voice on the developing child in utero. Here’s a quick summary of a few of them:

  • Babies in utero can recognize, and show a strong preference for, their mother’s voice over the voice of a stranger. See this study.
  • Newborn babies remember and show attentiveness to nursery rhymes that were read to them by their mother during the last trimester of pregnancy. Check it out here.
  • Babies in utero can distinguish between words spoken in their mother’s language and in other languages. Read this article.

990240_sThese and many related discoveries assure us that a baby in the last trimester is hearing, responding to, and remembering what he’s exposed to from inside the womb. Your baby is already familiar with the melody and cadence of your voice, and this interaction is stimulating the auditory cortex, which plays a large role in developing his brain.

But wait — there’s more! Research and lots of anecdotal evidence — including from our readers — strongly suggest that newborn babies are soothed and calmed by a rhythmic and repetitive story (or song) they heard regularly during the last trimester.

When your baby is born he leaves the soothing environment of the womb, with its predictable, rhythmic sounds. But if you hold him close and read a poem or story you’ve practiced with repeatedly, he will immediately be stilled by the familiar beat and by the beauty of your unique voice, the voice he has known and loved for months. Wouldn’t it give you a little extra confidence to have one more way of comforting your new baby?

25961883_sSo celebrate Mother’s Day by talking, singing, and reading to your baby even before birth. Soon enough, you will see your little one’s face light up when he hears you in person! Until then, you can know that he already knows and responds to the sweet sound of his Mummy’s voice.

As an added bonus, you can be sure that by talking to your baby now, you are laying the foundation for future language and literacy skills, cognitive development and, best of all, a sweet, strong mother-and-child bond.

Celebrate World Read Aloud Day with your baby-to-be!

LitWorldLogo

Not only is March National Reading Month, but March 2nd is Read Across America Day, and March 4th is World Read Aloud Day! If you are an expectant parent feeling intrigued by the idea of reading to your baby in the womb, we say: Give it a try on Wednesday, March 4! If you carry on through the rest of the month, we think you’ll be hooked. And this is one of the best things you can do for your baby, right up there with prenatal nutrition and healthcare.

World Read Aloud Day, celebrated annually on the first Wednesday in March, was initiated by LitWorld, an international literacy advocacy organization. According to LitWorld, this day “motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another.” We heartily approve of LitWorld’s mission (the emphasis is ours):

LitWorld photo of WRAD 2014
LitWorld photo of WRAD 2014

We cultivate a love of reading and writing because having the chance to experience that love is how literacy grows best and strongest. Literacy for LitWorld is not just about learning the alphabet or phonemic practice; it is also about cultivating creative expression, about the power of the read-aloud to immerse children in the power of language, and about putting young people’s stories out into the world, dignifying their experience and giving them a voice in the world.

Yes! And that powerful read-aloud time with your child can begin even before birth. In the last three months of pregnancy, when the baby’s brain and auditory system are already developed enough for him to hear and recognize sounds, you can start practicing this important reading routine and enjoying the feeling of sharing the love of language with your child. The benefits of in utero reading to babies’ cognitive development and language skills have been well documented over the last several years (just check out the Research section in the sidebar).

So we’re really excited to tell you about the latest contribution to this body of work, just reported on February 24. This study, led by the Harvard Medical School, showed that a baby’s brain development is e24441283_snhanced by hearing its mother’s voice and heartbeat before full gestation. “We theorize,” say the researchers, “that exposure to maternal sounds may provide newborns with the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.” We’re right there with you!

All the benefits of reading aloud to children that LitWorld so passionately advocates, combined with the wealth of scientific support for reading to babies in the womb, make it abundantly clear that It’s Never Too Early to Read to Your Baby!

12070233_sStart this joyful and valuable storytime routine right now, during National Reading Month! Book lovers everywhere are commemorating this special month with activities to spread the love of reading, and the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America on March 2 with fun events in schools, libraries, and community centers around the U.S.

Do you need some tips to get started? Please see this post for a fuller exploration of Jim Trelease’s read-aloud insights, but here are a few for now:

  • Use plenty of expression when reading: You can use your voice to reflect the meaning of the text. Use a soft voice for gentle characters and moving moments. Use a loud voice to show strong emotion or to emphasize adventure or excitement.
  • Adjust your pace to fit the story: Read slowly to bring attention to beautiful language and imagery. Read more quickly to show movement and action.
  • Preview the book by reading it to yourself ahead of time: This way, you’ll be more comfortable when you start to read it aloud. Reading it to yourself a few times will help you plan how the story might sound when it is spoken.

9434429_s

Happy Reading! 

The perfect gift for your expectant loved one

15265325_sIs there a budding family on your holiday list? An excited pregnant someone and/or her partner? If someone you love is expecting a baby, there’s one present that gives the gifts of parental bonding, early learning, and joyful anticipation all rolled into one: a book to read to the baby in the womb.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that the research says that the best stories for reading to your baby before birth are those that are rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive. Babies in utero respond best to this type of auditory stimulation, and studies definitively prove that these kinds of stories are the best remembered and have the most soothing effect on newborns! The following list includes fun rhyming stories that parents and baby will enjoy before and after birth.

PandaThe Bear books, including and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?  and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, are an excellent example of the type of story that’s perfect for reading to babies before and after birth. The poetic meter and repetitious verse will create the neural pathways in baby’s brain that will lay the foundation for future language learning. Author Bill Martin Jr. and illustrator Eric Carle have collaborated to create many other books with beautiful illustrations that will engage babies and adults alike.

ThingsOf course, Dr. Seuss has dozens of rhyming books, whose whimsical verses and illustrations have been charming us for generations now. Consider The Cat in the Hat or The Lorax.

And then there’s the beloved Sandra Boynton, the author and illustrator of many fun and melodic board books, including The Going to Bed Book and Moo Baa La La La. These books, with their lively illustrations and all-around silliness, are bound to become cherished additions to your child’s story repertoire.Going to Bed

With so many wonderful choices, it shouldn’t be hard to find a book that you enjoy reading aloud as much as your baby loves hearing. Keep in mind that these are the stories that your little one will become familiar with and will request again and again once she’s born. Right now, your baby is a captive audience, snuggled up all safe and warm in your “reading womb.” She waits to hear the beautiful sound of your voice and the beloved story, a magical combination that she’ll respond to and that research shows will help her cognitive and language development.

Featured Image -- 925Still can’t decide? Well, it just so happens there’s already a book that’s supported by research and expressly designed for reading to babies in utero and after they’re born. This critically acclaimed book was recently honored with a prestigious gold medal from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and has been inspiring expectant parents all over the globe to begin reading aloud to their babies before birth. Can’t Wait to Show you has become a beloved family favorite, a cherished storytime staple, and a beautiful little book that has sparked an incredible phenomenon of bonding with babies, prenatally and beyond, through language and literacy.

how-to-use-belly-booksNow, just for our dear readers, we’re offering a holiday special: $3 off the regular price on Amazon! Just enter promo code 6KIVA96K at checkout. And please, whether this copy is for yourself or for a loved one, we’d LOVE you to share your experience with your Belly Book. By email, on Facebook, or with an Amazon review, please give us your before-and-after pictures and stories. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

 

Thank you, Moonbeam!

Moonbeam AwardWe are thrilled, honored, touched, and grateful to be awarded the 2014 Moonbeam Awards Gold Medal for Board Books.

GoodnightWe believe this recognition is a wonderful sign: Clearly, awareness is growing about the value of reading to babies in utero. Establishing a practice of family storytime by reading to babies before and after birth is the first step in fostering in our children a lifelong love of reading and learning, as well as family and social bonding. It’s our dream that someday soon this will be a universal practice with lasting benefits for families everywhere.

Thanks also to our dear readers for your support in this exciting journey!