Though you might feel a little crazy talking to your baby bump, research now suggests that babies begin to absorb language before they are born. During the last ten weeks of pregnancy, babies are listening, learning and remembering the language they hear, tuning into the flow of language far earlier than originally thought. And newborns are able to tell the difference between their mother’s native tongue and foreign language just hours after they are born. So, simply talking in a calm and relaxing voice can do wonders for your baby’s emergent literacy.
What is emergent literacy?
Emergent literacy is those skills that children develop before formally learning to read and write: babbling and experimenting with different sounds is the beginnings of oral language; scribbling and mark making is early writing; pointing at signs and interacting with print is early reading.
“Literacy is an emerging skill that begins at birth,” explains Karen Gawen, Young People’s Services Supervisor from Sunshine Coast Council. “These early skills are critical to build the foundation of literacy – without them, the more complex skills of reading and writing can be difficult to master.”
Introducing early literacy to your baby
Early literacy isn’t necessary to teach! These early language skills are best learned through everyday moments with the most important people in their lives – playing, laughing, talking and reading with you! These things are not only fun, they are wonderful for little brains and great for bonding too.
“By making simple early literacy activities part of your shared day-to-day, your child can develop a love for reading that they WILL carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
To develop these skills, babies and children need plenty of opportunities to talk, read, sing and play, so make these things part of your daily routine from the very early days. Those children who have plenty of opportunities to talk with engaged adults each day are less likely to experience difficulty with literacy when they reach school.
“Don’t worry that they don’t understand the exact meaning of the words you are saying,” says Karen. “When you repeat words, the speech and language parts of the brain are stimulated. The more language they hear, the more those parts of the brain will grow and develop.”
Simple things you can do with your baby
- Describe baby’s feelings each time they respond – ‘you are happy/hungry/cold’. Even if they don’t understand the meaning, your tone and expression can make them feel understood.
- Copy baby’s sounds, have a babbling conversation! Then encourage them to copy you.
- Put their sounds into a sentence: ‘Ball? Yes, that is a red ball, shall we play?’
- Sing songs. Don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune – babies don’t care! If you aren’t confident, head along to a community event such as Rhymetime at the library.
- Read every day and carry books with you. Choose hard-backed or cloth books that they can explore, chew, and develop a love and familiarity with reading. Again, events such as Storytime at the library can help.
To find out more about early literacy activities at your local library such as Storytime and Rhymetime, head to library.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au