Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Read With 6 to 12 month olds: Tips and Book Recommendations

While some parents may feel a whimper of sadness as the newborn phase becomes a thing of the past, many happily embrace the period of time when their child is 6 to 12 months of age......

Sleepless nights are replaced with hours of uninterrupted sleep; "ooo's" and "aahhh's" start to resemble babbles that not only sound like, but may actually BE real words; liquid-only diets become a thing of the past; and increased mobility means that those little arms and hands that once could barely grasp an object, can now hug you, play ball with you, and blow you a kiss. 

And let's not forget that those little arms and hands can also now hold books, turn pages, and "lift-the-flaps" in books (or rip them, if they so please). 

Reading to infants in the second half of their first year is in many ways similar to reading with a newborn

You'll likely still be spending the majority of reading time using board, cloth, or vinyl books, cuddling close and bonding, and reading brightly colored books with few words.  But, in many ways reading to a baby, as opposed to a newborn, is different because........well, they have started to "grow up" a little!  Their learning becomes increasingly more active, and so you will want to add books to your library that capitalize on their newly found mobility and advanced cognitive development.

If you weren't a super devoted reader with your newborn, don't worry, it's not too late to begin; but I encourage you to begin now.  Why?

  • school readiness begins well before a child ever steps foot in a school; you can even begin preparing your child for success in school at birth
  • the more you speak to and read with your child, the better your child's language and reading skills will become
  • reading is a great way to help your child learn new vocabulary; the larger your child's vocabulary, the more spoken language he will understand, and the more written language he will comprehend which = a greater chance of success in school
So if you are now convinced that reading to your infant is a good (and by good, I mean GREAT) idea, you might be wondering exactly what kinds of books are well suited for this age group. 

Well, it's your lucky day then because here are 5 categories of books that every parent with an infant should have in their at-home library.

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are great for babies for a couple of reasons.  First of all, they are fun!  If your child is having fun, he's likely to stay engaged and, consequently, learn.  Secondly, and more importantly, nursery rhymes RHYME.  Rhyming words help children gain important phonemic awareness skills, which are necessary for learning how to read.  In fact, research conducted on children in Pre-Kindergarten has shown a strong relationship between nursery rhyme familiarity and success in reading and writing (MacLean, Bryant, and Bradley, 1987). 

So get out those Mother Goose books!  Here are a few great ones:

by Blanche Fisher Wright

by Richard Walz

To learn more about this topic, you can read this article titled Nursery Rhymes and Phonemic Awareness.

Books You Can Sing

Between the ages of 6 and 12 months children begin to become even more active participants in their learning due to their increased mobility.  For this reason, books that you can sing are particularly beneficial for this age group because they often have hand motions or finger plays that go along with them. Associating words with actions gives more meaning to those words, and they will be more easily learned and remembered.

Here's a couple suggestions to get you started: 

by Annie Kubler

by Brenda Jackson & Ronald L. McDonald

by Eileen Christelow

by H.A. Rey

First Word Books

First word books are perfect for this age group because infant's vocalizations become even more speech-like during the last half of the first year. 

At about 6 months of age babies begin to produce strings of syllables such as "da-da" or "ba-ba" or "ma-ma-ma".  These "babbles" become increasingly complex over time and babies begin to string together different consonant-vowel combinations.  By 10 months, infants even begin to mimic adult-like intonation.  And by a year, many children transition from babbling to actual speech - either in the form of protowords (words that have consistent meaning for the child, but are not actually "proper" words), or actual words.  While there is a large variation in the timing of first words (they can appear between 10 and 18 months), most children utter their first true word around 1 year.  When first words do appear, they are used to convey a whole sentence (this is referred to as a holophrase).  So "doggie" might mean "Look! I see a doggie," or "daddy" with arms extended upward may mean "daddy pick me up!" 

Infant's first words are generally familiar objects (like spoon, ball, car), animals (like cow, dog, duck), body parts (like nose, ear, eyes), or people (like boy, girl, daddy, mommy) - all things that are (not so coincidentally) in FIRST WORD BOOKS!!

Here's a few you might want to check out:

by Roger Priddy

by Roger Priddy

ABC books

ABC books are great on many levels for children who are 6 to 12 months.  In particular, they teach infants letter and object recognition. 

An infant's receptive vocabulary, or the words that he can understand, will be vastly greater than his expressive vocabulary, or the words he can produce. 

ABC books are a wonderful way to help build a child's receptive vocabulary.  Point to and name the objects on each page, and if your child has begun to gesture through pointing, you can then ask him to point to an object.  You may say something like, "Can you show me where the lion on the page is?"

If he hasn't begun to point on his own, you may want to model that for him, or take his finger and guide it to the correct object.

This particular ABC book is a good place to begin, and has lots of objects as well as flaps to lift to discover even more objects or words.

by Diane Thistlethwaite and DK publishing

"Game" Books

Finally, infants love to play games, and many books incorporate them into the storyline. 

Back and forth games like "peek-a-boo" are a fun way to sneek in a language lesson because they mimic the back-and-forth process of a conversation.  Read the book, then follow up with your own game!

Books such as these below will likely entertain your child while helping them learn about language and the world around them:

by Marie Torres Cimarusti and Stephanie Petersen

by Jack Tickle

I encourage you to leave a comment!  I'd love to know:
What book does your infant love and why?

If your infant is all grown up, what book was their favorite?
I will combine suggestions and repost!

Questions or curious about more good learning strategies for this age group? 
Feel free to email me at:

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