The Tale of an Insatiable Reader

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Warmest thanks to Gina of the wonderful blog Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers!

What made Gina such an avid book lover? Her mother read to her in the womb, of course! Read her story and her kind words about our book for reading to babies in the womb, Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be.

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: Can’t Wait to Show You by Jacqueline Boyle and Susan Lupone Stonis.

Your voice + rhythm = a love song to baby

ReadingNew studies continue to emerge that support the idea that a baby in the womb is capable of a lot more than was previously thought. Just last week, researchers at the University of Florida announced their discovery that babies in the last trimester learn and remember nursery rhymes, and that they become especially attentive when the rhymes are read by their mother!

Discoveries like these have made it clear that a baby in the last trimester is an active and responsive member of the household, someone who hears, learns, and remembers what he is exposed to in the womb. Think about what this means! Your baby is already familiar with his sibling’s laugh, the sound of your dog barking, the musical theme of your favorite show, and most importantly, the melody and cadence of your voice.

21492380_sPrevious research in this area strongly suggests that a baby is soothed and calmed by a rhythmic and repetitive story — or song — because the inherent beat closely mimics the rhythm of his mother’s heartbeat and breath. It makes sense, doesn’t it? A baby in the womb is cozy, warm, and comforted by the “ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump” of your heartbeat, and the in-and-out “whoosh” of your breathing. If you read a rhythmic story, he will also be soothed by the rhythm of your voice, which he can hear quite well by the third trimester.

When your baby is born, he’s taken out of this soothing environment, with its predictable, rhythmic sound. But if you hold him close and read a rhythmic poem or story that you read to him regularly during the last trimester, he will immediately be soothed by the familiar “ba-bump” beat.

We created our book, Can’t Wait to Show You, the first in the Belly Books Collection, with all this research in mind. As you read this selection, notice its distinct rhythm and limerick meter:

Hello in there, baby! I’m thinking of you
As you’re curled up inside me so small
Every joy that we share
All my loving and care
And I can’t wait to show you it all!

NoiseOf course, the baby in the womb won’t yet be able to understand the words and appreciate the poem’s imagery and emotion — but you will! He will become accustomed to the sounds of the words, and the repeated rhythms will catch and hold his attention in the womb. And because your baby is already in love with your unique voice, he’ll pay extra close attention as you read.

When your baby is born and you read the familiar words, you’ll be amazed to see that he becomes instantly relaxed — a rapt and peaceful audience. You know the feeling: You’ve been searching the radio for a good station. When you catch the beginning of one of your favorite songs you just sit back, listen, and let it take you away.

GuitarThe benefits of reading rhythmic words to babies in the womb naturally apply to music, too. For a refresher on the benefits of singing lullabies to your expected baby, please see our November 6, 2013, post, Joyful Noise!

Official AAP recommendation: Start reading early!

AAPThe nation’s largest pediatricians’ group, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has publicly urged parents to read aloud to their children daily and to begin as soon as possible. This practice, they say, stimulates early brain development and helps build important language, literacy and social skills. Dr. Pamela High, a renowned pediatrician and spokesperson for the Academy, says:

What we’re addressing is that many parents in the United States don’t seem to have the knowledge that there’s a wonderful opportunity available to them, starting very early, an opportunity for them to begin building their child’s language development and to forge their own relationship with their child through reading to them on a regular basis.

We couldn’reading pregnantt agree more, Dr. High! And we’re grateful for the tireless work you’ve done over many years to spread the word about the importance of sharing language with children right from the very start.

With all the recent research showing that a baby in the last trimester learns language, we are certain that an announcement from the AAP about reading even before birth is not far behind.

“It feels kind of awkward”

You may be an expectant parent who has been hearing about all the incredible benefits of reading to children as soon as possible, and you want to get started, but how? You already take good care of your baby by taking prenatal vitamins, cutting back on caffeine, and getting enough rest, but reading out loud? Now that’s a horse of a different color! We realize that most adults ReadtoBabyhave not read aloud since they were children, if ever, and that beginning this practice can be a little daunting. You might even be thinking to yourself, “What if I do it wrong?”

We at the Reading Womb are here to assure you that there is absolutely no wrong way to read to your baby. Your little one has already fallen deeply in love with you and with your unique voice — months before he is born. Research shows that every time you speak, your baby tunes in and listens closely.

“So what should I read to my baby in the womb?”

To tell the truth, your baby will get all gaga hearing you read the ingredients from the side of a cereal box! But if your aim is to promote literacy and language development, then we can give you the tools to begin. The very first thing that you need to begin your reading routine is . . . a book! Research shows that babies in the womb, as well as newborns, latch onto language that is rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive.

Beloved children’s author and early literacy advocate Mem Fox beautifully explains:

When children are born, they’ve been used to the mother’s heartbeat in the womb. When they’re born, they’re rocked and cradled. There is a rhythm to life itself. There’s rhythm in the nursery rhymes and songs that are sung to children.

ChickenSo choose a book that has a simple rhythm that’s easy for you to read and will be soothing music to your baby’s ears. In many of the research studies that we’ve reported here, babies in the womb were regularly read nursery rhymes. The short, simple, repetitive lines heard before birth were learned and remembered later by the newborns. As an extra bonus, these babies were soothed and calmed by the familiar language they heard before birth!

Choosing a book with visual appeal to a newborn is also important. Bright and colorful board books will capture a baby’s attention, and the chunky design and easy-to-grasp pages are baby friendly. When he’s still inside the womb, your voice and the fun and lively text will be the main attraction, but once he’s born your baby will have the incredible experience of blending the familiar text with beautiful and supporting illustrations. Voila! You have a tiny pre-reader on your hands!

“What’s the best way to read aloud?”Jim Trelease

Jim Trelease, creator of the long bestselling Read Aloud Handbook, writes about all the research showing conclusively that babies in the last trimester do listen to, learn from, and remember language. In Chapter 2 he goes on to encourage expectant parents to form the habit of reading to baby before birth, saying that it will be your baby’s “first class in learning.” The following is an excerpt from his “Do’s and Don’ts for Read Alouds,” with some additional suggestions from us.

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. Monotone reading will put you and your baby to sleep, so try to keep your voice lively and rich with feeling. Dr. Pam High from the AAP says, “I think [babies] understand the emotion in the words that are being read to them very, very early.”

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.

May we also suggest that you choose a book that you enjoy reading as well? If you read a how-to-use-belly-booksparticular book to your baby in utero, we can assure you that that book is going to become your child’s very favorite. Your child is going to say “Please Mommy, just one more time,” or “Read it again, Daddy.” You can look forward to reading this book over and over and over again, so be sure to make it one that you love, too.

Establishing a regular reading routine before birth is one of the very best things you can do for your baby, and as with anything, developing a comfort level with reading aloud takes practice. What better time to practice than when your baby is closer to you than he will ever be again? Ten to 15 minutes a day is all that’s needed to grow a lifelong reader, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us, the benefits are immeasurable.

What should I read to my baby in the womb?

RThe research confirms: the best kind of story to read to your baby in utero is . . .

Rhythmic
Repetitive
Rhyming

In other words, Rollicking! And Recognizable even from within the muffled environment of the womb.

Now, what more rollicking poetry is there than the limerick form? Something like Edward Lear’s:

LearThere was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

But we can do even better than Mr. Lear when it comes to a perfectly rollicking limerick that expresses your joyful anticipation of the birth of your baby! Just for a sample:

Play


A bouncy-seat when you are tiny

But someday you’ll crawl, walk and run
I will cry “Peek-a-boo!”
For a giggle from you
Oh, I can’t wait to show you the fun!

 
Yes, our very own baby-bump-shaped board book, Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be. And for just this week we’re offering it to you, our dear Reading Womb readers, for a special price.

Go to Amazon and enter the promo code N26VPJ3D to get $1.00 off until May 31, 2014. Enjoy!

You made some noise!

Noise

 

 

Thanks so much
to all our readers
for helping us
spread the word!

Congratulations to our winner—we’ll be in touch about sending you your very own copy of Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be!

Happy in utero reading!

National Reading Month: Save Our Storytime!

Norman RockwellIt’s hard to imagine a sweeter family scene: children snuggled up close to Mommy or Daddy, bright expectant faces awaiting the next words of their favorite bedtime story.

Little ones look forward to this special time each night; it’s a sacred routine that makes them feel safe and loved, and the benefits of storytime for the child and the family as a whole are immeasurable. But is this idyllic scene becoming a thing of the past?

Recent research in both the United States and the UK shows that bedtime stories are on the endangered list. The Guardian reports that in “a poll of 2,000 mothers with children aged 0 to 7 years, only 64% of respondents said they read their children bedtime stories, even though 91% were themselves read bedtime stories when young. Only 13% of parents read to their children every night.”

BabybotThe reasons cited included “being too stressed out” and “not enough time,” but the most dismaying was that children had trouble staying engaged with books when so many other options were available to them. Now, the chances are pretty good that if you are a follower of a blog called The Reading Womb, you are as unsettled by this information as we are.

As a reader, you probably intuitively knew that there are benefits to reading to children regularly, and we can support your hunches with a few hard facts:

·        Children who are read to regularly and exposed to many words from an early age perform better in school and are all around better adjusted emotionally and socially than children who were not read to. Drs. Hart and Risley’s study about this has gotten a lot of fresh attention lately, inspiring initiatives all over the country to increase the number of words babies and children hear. Please see our January 2014 post all about it.

·        Hearing stories from the very beginning creates a multitude of neural pathways in the brain. Says Dr. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., chief of the child development and behavior branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD.: “There’s a clear indication of a neurological difference between kids who have been regularly read to and kids who have not.”

·        Snuggling up with Mom or Dad increases levels of cortisol, the anti-stress hormone, and oxytocin, “the bonding hormone,” in children. Not to mention the benefits for Mom and Dad—research shows that snuggling also reduces blood pressure and heart rate!

TabletSo, in short, family storytime makes kids socially comfortable, smart and healthy. All parents want what’s best for their children, don’t they? So what’s going on here?

We’re thinking this could have something to do with it!

In that same survey we mentioned earlier, “Nearly half of the parents surveyed said their children found television, computer games and other toys more diverting, while 4% said their children do not own any books at all.” Oh, dear.

FPFisher Price recently introduced a baby-product line called Apptivity Entertainers, or Apptivity Play and Learn, which they describe as “a grow-with-me seat for baby that’s soothing, entertaining, and has a touch of technology, too.” We say it’s a screen dressed up like a baby toy, but either way, there’s a really good chance that this baby is not going to be begging Mommy and Daddy to read another story when an iPad, iPod, Bedtime Storyor other electronic device is available. Look how this baby is more interested in the small screen than his own Mommy’s beautiful face!

We know technology is here to stay—and it’s an amazing and helpful phenomenon in most cases, in its proper time and place. Most children are going to engage in some kind of screen time, and much of it is good, but it’s our job as the grownups to ensure that there’s a balance between the zesty stimulation of electronic bells and whistles . . . and the rich, organic simplicity of illustrated paper pages being turned slowly by soft human hands and narrated by a loving human voice.

Celebrate National Reading Month!

Read Aloud MonthMarch is National Reading Month, and organizations all over the U.S. are commemorating it with activities to spread the love of reading. The National Education Association celebrated Read Across America Day on March 3 with fun events in schools, libraries, and community centers around the country. And the nonprofit organization Read Aloud 15 Minutes, whose mission is to “make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care,” has gone a step further and declared March National Read Aloud Month! The organization’s central message is that . . .

Celebrating National Read Aloud Day in Kalona, IA

When every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, more children will be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, more children will have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school, and more children will be prepared for a productive and meaningful life after school.

Hear, hear! And of course we have to add that this 15 minutes of reading 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 her to hear and recognize sounds, you can start practicing this important reading routine and start enjoying the feeling of sharing the love of language with your child.

BeforeWe gave our friends the opportunity to test-drive our new book, Can’t Wait to Show You, while it was still in prototype form. They soon got used to the rather odd feeling of reading to an unseen audience and began to make an emotional connection to the story itself. The pleasure of the rhymes and rhythms was multiplied by their knowledge that the baby inside was taking it all in and might remember it after birth.

After

Lo and behold, when their baby was born they soon got a chance to see the magic for themselves. They read Can’t Wait to Show You to the newborn on a fussy day and were amazed to see him settle down and attend to the familiar words. Reading time continues to be a cherished part of their day and these proud parents say this is one of their little boy’s favorite books. This new family wholeheartedly agrees, It’s Never Too Early to Read to Your Baby!

So, from all your little friends at Belly Books, Happy National Reading  Month!

Belly Babies