Do you speak Parentese?

As parents, we have so much to think about, worry about, and learn. We are bombarded with information from news, research, and social media that can be overwhelming and confusing. It sometimes makes us wonder if we’re doing too much or not enough in our mission to raise healthy, happy kids.

So isn’t it great when you get a big thumbs-up for something you’re already doing as a parent?

You’ve talked to your baby in a funny voice, right? You’ve also stretched words out and carefully articulated them to help your baby understand and learn them. You’ve probably even exaggerated the tone of your voice to show different emotions through your words.

New research out of the University of Washington confirms that you are on the right track! The study, from UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS), shows that it’s important not only thatyou talk to your baby but howyou talk to your baby.

It seems that this use of “parentese” has a powerful impact on infants. More than just baby-talk, parentese is grammatical language using real words and accentuated tones of voice that “helps babies tune in socially to their parents and motivates them to talk back, even if that just means babbling,” according to an article about the study on University of Washington News.

The research shows that babies who are exposed to this type of speech develop strong language skills themselves. When parents participating in the study were coached in using parentese, their children learned to talk earlier and with a larger vocabulary than babies whose parents did not speak this way.

The lead author of the study, Ferjan Ramírez, explained that parents can communicate with their children in this way to enhance language learning throughout their usual activities: “Everyday moments and daily interactions really matter, and parents can create more such moments and be more intentional about them.” Ramírez added:

Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and we are happy to show they can have an immediate positive effect on the growth of their child’s language. Early language skills are important predictors of a child’s learning to read and of their success in school, and parents can directly affect their child’s outcomes in this way.

Supercharge your parentese: read aloud!

If you’ve looked around The Reading Womb a bit, you’ll be aware of the explosion of research and advice about early literacy—reading to children right from birth—that’s become available to parents in recent years. This practice, advocates say, stimulates early brain development and helps build important language, literacy, and social skills. Sound familiar?

Well, just like parentese, reading aloud is something that many new parents have to learn. After all, most adults haven’t read aloud since they were kids themselves! Fortunately, you have so many great teachers to turn to.

Jim Trelease, author of the long-bestselling Read Aloud Handbook, created a list of “Do’s and Don’ts for Read Alouds.” Right in line with the findings on parentese, Trelease suggests, for instance, that parents use plenty of expression when reading.You can use your voice to reflect the meaning of the text: a soft voice for gentle characters and touching scenes, a loud voice to show strong emotion or to emphasize drama and excitement. Also, adjust your pace to fit the story: read slowly to bring attention to beautiful language and imagery, and more quickly to show movement and action.

When it comes to enriching the vocabulary you use with your baby, beloved children’s author and early literacy advocate Mem Fox says in her amazing book Reading Magic, “If children love the words they hear, they’ll use them delightfully in their own speaking and in their own writing. If they love the sounds of the words, they’ll understand them better when they come to read them later. That’s another terrific benefit of reading aloud: familiar words—words heard often previously—are always easier to read than unfamiliar words.”

And as Sarah McKenzie says in her book (and entire platform!) The Read-Aloud Family, “When we read aloud, we give our kids a storehouse filled with excellent vocabulary and highly sophisticated language patterns. We offer them practice at making connections and thinking well. And best of all, we help them fall in love with reading—an affection that will serve them well their entire lives.”

Reading aloud to your baby can be the perfect way to practice using expressive language in all your communication with your child.

The perfect time to learn

So, if it takes some practice to develop a comfort level with reading aloud and speaking parentese, what better time to start than before your baby is born? In the final weeks before baby arrives, her ears are already fully developed and her brain is able to discern varying speech patterns. This time of expectation, before your life changes so dramatically, is the perfect time to get used to reciting bouncy Dr. Seuss rhythms and silly Sandra Boynton rhymes. By the time your baby is born, you’ll already be fluent in parentese!

This is also the time to make bedtime stories a nightly routine that you’ll look forward to as much as your new baby will. After a period of practicing reading to your baby in utero, you’ll 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 rewards.

All the benefits of reading aloud to children and babies, combined with the wealth of scientific support for reading to babies in the womb (check out the links on our Research & Information page), make it abundantly clear that it’s never too early to read to your baby!

Remember, you are your baby’s first and most important teacher. By modeling enthusiastic and expressive speech, you are setting an example for your child’s own language development—before birth and after!

 

 

 

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!

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.