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Top 3 Reasons to Read to Your Child from Birth

Top 3 Reasons to Read to Your Child from Birth

Reading Aloud to Your New Baby Boosts Future Language and Reading Skills 

It may seem odd to read books aloud to your brand new baby, but plenty of research has shown how important it is. Not only is reading aloud to your baby a great way to bond and spend quality time together, it is also a proven way to boost your baby’s future language development, reading skills and much more. Once you understand the impact reading aloud has on your baby, you’ll be scheduling it into your daily routine right away.

Most parents know that reading to a school-age child is an important way to improve language and reading comprehension as well as encourage a lifelong love of reading. But what many new parents don’t know is that reading aloud to babies has been shown to have a significant and lasting impact on their language development. A 2017 research study entitled “Early Reading Matters: Long-term Impacts of Shared Bookreading with Infants and Toddlers on Language and Literacy Outcomes,” revealed that book-reading in early infancy and toddlerhood predicted child vocabulary up to four years later. It also showed that book-reading quality during early infancy predicted early reading skills while during the toddler-years, book-reading quantity AND quality were closely tied to emergent literacy skills.

According to the study’s lead author and researcher Carolyn Cates, PhD, “These findings are exciting because they suggest that reading to young children, beginning even in early infancy, has a lasting effect on language, literacy and early reading skills.” She goes on to say “What they’re learning when you read with them as infants still has an effect four years later when they’re about to begin elementary school.

The benefits of reading aloud continue as your child moves into toddler and school-age years.

Jim Trelease - author of The New York Times Bestseller “The Read-Aloud Handbook,” believes that very young children benefit greatly from parents reading aloud. He cites the results of “The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study” (which included 22,000 students) that found kindergarten children who had been read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness than did children who were read to less often, and were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading readiness. Pretty compelling numbers from the simple act of reading books!

The well-known 1995 book “Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children” established a scientifically substantiated link between children's early childhood experience and their eventual intellectual growth. The authors - Hart and Risley - spent years researching the roots of intellectual disparity. They observed 1 and 2 year old children in typical American families and found staggering contrasts in the amount of interaction between parents and children. These differences translated into shocking disparities in the children's vocabulary growth rate, vocabulary use, and IQ test scores.

Clearly, reading to your baby (and toddler) can create a whole host of benefits both now and in the future; setting your child up for greater levels of success. And all it takes is just ten minutes a day.

Reading to Your Baby May Also Have a Positive Impact on Future Behavior

Reading aloud to your baby has also been shown to potentially help his or her future behavior. In a compelling study, reading aloud and positive play during ages 0-5 was associated with improved behavior outcomes up to 4.5 years later. The study participants who were exposed to parents reading aloud and playing with them had more than a 60% reduction in hyperactivity and psychosocial risk. That study concluded that reading aloud and positive parental play from birth to 5 years could enhance social-emotional development.

Wondering what books are good for reading to your baby? Wunder has a library of our favorite books for you to enjoy with your baby! But truthfully, anything age-appropriate that you enjoy reading to your baby will work just fine. All that really matters is that you read aloud to your baby as soon as possible and as often as possible.

Want to Raise a Happy Child? Start Doing These Two Things

Want to Raise a Happy Child? Start Doing These Two Things

As a parent, you want an amazing life for your baby. You want your baby to grow up well-adjusted, high-achieving, compassionate and more. But, for most parents, their biggest hope for their baby is to see them happy. Once you become a parent, nothing is better than seeing your child happy, laughing and content with the world. Conversely, few things are as painful as seeing your child crying and unhappy, especially when you can’t help them feel better. In the end, happiness is what we want most for our children. But just how do you go about raising a happy child? In this article we share two things you can start doing right now.

Teach Your Child Emotional Literacy

Although the term emotional literacy may seem complex, it’s actually a simple concept. Emotional literacy is the ability to understand and express feelings and then manage those feelings. For example, if your child feels frustrated, they would notice the feeling, reassure themselves and manage to remain calm. Emotional literacy is a skill that will help your child immensely throughout their life. And it’s a skill you can begin teaching your child at a very young age. The Office of Head Start (the federal program that supports early learning, health, and family well-being) champions the building of emotional literacy in kids. According to this Head Start article, emotionally literate children enjoy many benefits over those who don’t build this critical skill.

Kids with a strong foundation in emotional literacy:

  • Tolerate frustration better
  • Get into fewer fights
  • Engage in less self-destructive behavior
  • Are happier
  • Are healthier
  • Are less lonely
  • Are less impulsive
  • Are more focused
  • Have greater academic achievement

When your child is still a baby or a very young toddler, the foundation for emotional literacy is to simply accept your child’s emotions rather than minimizing them. When we deny a child’s emotion because we don’t like it, we teach them that some feelings are not acceptable or even shameful. This can cause a child to repress their angry or upset feelings which is a recipe for unhappiness. So, rather than denying a feeling, teach your child (from infancy) that they are allowed to have any and all emotions. Tell them that all feelings are normal and part of being human. This doesn’t mean that all actions are acceptable. They are allowed to feel whatever they feel, but they’re not allowed to hurt themselves or others. Be sure to make that important distinction.

According to an article from Edutopia, a trusted foundation transforming K-12 education, the next step to emotional literacy is to teach young children how to label their feelings - and not just the simple mad, sad, glad. They need to be able to recognize nuances in emotion and label feelings like surprised, worried, proud and afraid. How do you go about teaching very young children about feelings? Edutopia (and other) experts recommend using pictures of faces with emotions and ask your child what emotion they see; coaching them if needed. You can check out Wunder's very own Baby Flash Cards with faces. You could use any of your child’s picture books to start this process; asking them to label the feelings they see in the characters. Then, take it a step further - ask them how they know that’s the feeling. They should be able to point out facial features that indicate an emotion such as raised eyebrows or a downturn in the mouth. If they seem stuck, point out the ways in which the person is indicating a feeling. This practice starts the foundation of emotional literacy. 

Be a Happy Person Yourself

In her book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, Christine Carter, pHd, reveals that your level of happiness dramatically affects how happy and successful your kids are. Dramatically! She reveals that extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. According to the author, parental depression appears to cause behavioral problems in kids while also making parenting less effective. If you’re feeling depressed (as many, MANY new parents do) it’s time to work on that. Ignoring your own sadness is not only bad for you, it’s also bad for your child. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible about how you’re feeling and start taking the necessary steps to feel happy again.

If you’re not feeling depressed, it’s time to find ways to get even happier. Take a moment to consider what makes you happy (this may feel weird when you’re a brand new parent consumed with infant duty!). What inspires you? What makes you laugh out loud? What is awesome in your life that you can feel more gratitude for? Now, go do more of these things! And not just one time...on a regular basis. Getting happier needs to be at the top of your To-Do-List from now on because the happiness of your whole family depends on it.

Raising a happy child begins now, and it begins with you. Increasing your own happiness and fostering emotional literacy in your little one are two surefire ways to get the happiness ball rolling.

Does "baby talk" REALLY help your baby's language development?

Does "baby talk" REALLY help your baby's language development?

Using Parentese Baby Talk to Help Your Baby Grasp Language

The way you talk to your infant can have a big impact on their language development. In fact, according to recent research, parental language input is one of the best predictors of children’s language achievement. These days, experts recommend parents use “parentese” rather than traditional baby talk. In this article, we’ll explain parentese, and how to use it to advance your baby’s language skills.

Although still a form of baby talk, parentese differs from traditional baby talk in a few important ways. In traditional baby talk a parent might say “How’s mama’s widdle baby today? Do you want your babaaa?” in a high-pitched, cooing tone of voice. While cute, this type of baby talk employs made-up words and incorrect grammar; neither of which help to develop language skills. So, to summarize, traditional baby talk:

  • Has a higher pitch than adult speech
  • Has same cadence/tempo as adult speech
  • Uses made-up words
  • Uses incorrect grammar

Parentese (sometimes referred to as “motherese”) is a type of back-and-forth baby talk that uses a higher pitch, a slower tempo and more exaggerated intonation than normal language. It is a type of baby talk that encourages a baby to respond (even with just coos and babbles), and has been shown to lead to advances in children’s grasp of language. In parentese, the higher pitch and happy tone of traditional baby talk remain, but the tempo slows down and adult grammar and words are used. So, instead of “How’s mama’s widdle baby today? Do you want you babaaa?” you would say “How is mama’s little baby today? (pause for reaction/response). “Are you hungry?” (pause for reaction/response). “Should mama get you a bottle?!” (pause again). To summarize, parentese:

  • Has a higher pitch than adult speech
  • Has a slower cadence/tempo than adult speech
  • Uses adult words
  • Uses correct grammar
  • Employs pauses to allow for response/reaction

Parentese is essentially proper adult speech delivered in a higher pitch and slower cadence with pauses for response. A recent study showed that babies of parents coached in parentese showed significant gains in conversational turn-taking and vocalizations between 14 to 18 months old. 

Still not sure how to use parentese with your baby? We love this parentese guide created by the Center for Early Literacy Learning. Give their ideas a try and see if your baby shows positive signs like:

  1. Getting excited and making noises in response
  2. Looking intently at your face and mouth
  3. Responding differently than to adult speech

You want the best for you baby (of course!) and adopting parentese early on is a great way to boost language skills; giving your little one a leg up for the future.