Sat | Oct 1, 2016

Bedtime stories: Read to your babies

Published:Monday | March 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Emma Dalton-Brown,
Gleaner Writer

From the day our son was born, my husband and I started reading to him. Even though he spent the first two weeks of his life in hospital, we still read to him. A close friend, we'll call her Aunty D, had given me a book, while I was pregnant, with Dr Seuss stories in it. We told and retold the tales of
Cat in the Hat
,
Horton Hears a Who
,
Green Eggs and Ham
, and 10 others, morning, noon and night. Unbelievably, we did not see another parent doing the same for their baby. I think they, and the nurses, were mildly amused at us. There our infant was, sleeping in the hospital cot. How could he be hearing our voices?

The truth is that the repetitive recitation and rhyming of Dr Seuss is very calming for the reader. It helps one to shut out the world, with all its disappointments. We were going through a very worrying time, so this was the ideal distraction. By default, of course, our son was listening. Sure, he could not speak, and it is debatable whether he could understand what we were saying, but the sound of his parents could not be a bad thing.

When my siblings and I were small children, our father would drill us on our multiplications daily. We had no choice but to be good at mathematics in school. English literature was a different story (no pun intended). However, for some reason, my mother did spend a considerable amount of time reading to me, especially at bedtime. Perhaps my older brothers missed out because there was always a younger baby in the house who needed tending to. Growing up, I was the one who would read books, and my English results in school were always better than theirs. Funnily enough, so were those of the languages we all studied: Latin, French and Spanish. It was not until the boys were in their late teens that they started to explore what literature had to offer, and two of my brothers ended up living in France and Spain for short periods.

Complete bookworms

Now, my entire family, including my nieces, are complete bookworms. If anyone is stuck for ideas on what to give for birthdays, we gift each other with, you guessed it, a book. When our little man is invited to another child's birthday, I buy said child - wait for it - a book! My advice to those who are ever given a particular book more than once, 'regift' it to someone else. If you do not own any books, for adults or children, go to the library. Reading the sports section of the newspaper to your baby is better than not reading to him or her at all.

That being said, we had to stop reading all form of print on paper when our wee chap started ripping the pages some months ago. Even if I put him on his play mat, 10 feet away, and open a story book, he comes scuttling along the floor to get his paws on it. What I've tried recently, is to give him an old magazine to tear up, while I get on with Peter Rabbit, and so forth. I'll let you know how that works out! The other thing you can do, if you're having the same trouble as us, is to make up your own stories for your baby.

In the next few weeks, this column will focus on the importance of literature, why you should read to children, how books for children and adults differ, and where you can go to buy or borrow the appropriate books. We'll be hearing from Deika Morrison, aka Aunty D, who has organised a wonderful event called 'Rotary Race to Literacy', and Dr Rebecca Tortello, author and special advisor on early childhood education. I hope that together we'll have you all reading bedtime stories to your babies!

emmadaltonbrown@gmail.com