Book Sharing in the Early Years

by Heather Stevens
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I love books. I loved reading to my children when they were small and now, nothing gives me greater pleasure than reading books and sharing books with my grandchildren. I think it is really easy to make the link between book sharing and developing reading skills, but I think we tend to forget all the great advantages and other skills that are developed through book sharing, and it’s never too early to start.

Even in the very early days a new-born will get comfort from the closeness and the sound of their carer’s voice. It is a great way to develop a bond with baby, not only for parents, but for grandparents, carers, siblings, and extended family. Although a young baby might not understand the words that you’re saying, they will enjoy the tone of your voice and the rhythms and the sounds of the language that is being used around them; this will help to stimulate and develop their hearing and later, their listening skills. As their eyesight develops and they begin to focus, they will really enjoy the bright colours and pictures, and books will start to play a part in helping to develop their visual skills.

Research tells us that a child’s language level at 5 years of age is the most important factor in them reaching the expected levels in English and Maths at age 7; so, we know that developing their language is hugely important. Reading and book sharing is a great way to help build a child’s vocabulary and their understanding. Although baby can’t talk back, a carer using lots of language around them will really make a difference.

There are so many advantages for book sharing in terms of a baby’s communication development and these include:

  • Teaching the baby about turn taking and interaction
  • Developing their understanding through picture recognition and hearing lots of vocabulary
  • Developing their spoken language through copying and repeating the sounds and words that they hear
  • Supporting social and emotional development as baby hears different tones of voice and different emotions expressed in your reading
  • Promoting thinking skills by encouraging baby to look and point in response to your questions
  • Building listening and memory skills
  • Giving children information about the world around them so that when they start talking, they have lots of talk about

Sharing a book doesn’t mean that you need to read all the words on the page, it is just as valuable to talk about the pictures or make up a story for the little one that they can relate to; maybe put them in the story and tell them stories about themselves. The sort of book that is shared is less important than the language that is used and the more exposure a child has to hearing language being used around them, the easier it is for them to develop the language skills they need as a firm foundation for literacy development.

But most importantly of all, sharing books should be fun and start children on a lifelong love of books.