I thought long and hard about what the first book on my blog should be. A timeless classic perhaps? A current favourite? A stand-out debut? Something laugh-out-loud? I looked at Worm N°1 (soon to be two years old), carefully turning the pages of Not Now, Bernard and reading it (in her own weird little language) to Mr Fox, surrounded by numerous picture books, that she had just taken from her bookcase, and pondered on how we got here. She is not even two yet her appreciation of books is akin to that of a scholar. Books are her bread and butter, a favourite pastime activity, an answer to all conundrums, a medicine for all woes (such as when she is not allowed to eat washing powder, or when a banana tastes like… erm.. banana…).
I decided that I would start at the beginning, the departure point, where N° 1 was nearly two years ago and where N° 2 (at a tender age of 2.5 months) is now.
As soon as we brought N° 1 home from the hospital we plonked her little overwhelmed self on the bed and I showed her her very first book called Hello Baby.
In the past, when I was a children’s buyer for a major UK book chain, I’d done a lot of research into how newborns see (as, contrary to the common belief they can see from the moment they are born!) and hear things in order to help to train the children’s booksellers in that area. Little did I know that a few years later that knowledge will come in so very handy!
So here I am again writing my top tips on how to read with an infant. This time, however, I can truthfully say that all of the below has been tried and tested, and worked really well with N° 1!
Top tips on how to read with a newborn:
- keep the book about 25cm / 10 inches away from them. Evolutionarily this is a perfect distance for a newborn to gaze up into the eyes of their parents. Any sights that are further up will be blurry. At birth, a newborn’s eyesight is between 20/200 and 20/400. Babies’ vision matures quickly and by the time they are appx 8 months it is close to that of an adult;
- the perfect first books are those with large contrasting patterns and colours hence why simple black and white books are so popular; It is a common misconception that babies cannot see colour, they can! They are just unable to differentiate between tones that are alike e.g. blue and purple;
- talk about what you see on each page– remember that babies start hearing in the womb so they find the voices they are familiar with very soothing! the very first books are normally wordless so you can let your imagination run wild! Or, what worked for me, whilst turning the pages I often talk about what I’m about to cook that day/week and what ingredients I still needed to get! As babies can’t really understand what’s being said to them, they are very
obliviousunderstanding when it comes to that little trick.
- best time to read to an infant is during their quiet and alert time= they might look all innocent and sweet but be assured that they will let you know when they’re not in the mood!
- it is very simple and high contrast
- the shapes are big and clear
- it is gender neutral
- it is a cloth books so is perfect for delicate hands
- the pages are padded (=supper soft) + one page makes crunching sounds making it superfun for babies
- it has a little mirror on the first page (babies love babies, including themselves!)
- and to top it all up it comes in a lovely PVC box making it a perfect ‘Welcome to the world!’ gift
It has only three pages but with different colours and shapes on each one it provided N° 1 with hours (if not days!) of fun. When just born she would stare at it for hours and as weeks and months went by she would start to touch and feel it, crunch it (oh, that sound!), point at different shapes and turn the pages herself. Now when I read it to N° 2, N° 1 still enjoys looking at it, and butts in half way through my shopping list being a little know-it-all and preaching to her little sister: ‘ce-ckle’ (=circle), ‘lack’ (=black). So a winner all together!
The other range of books I like a lot as first books is the Baby Sees books. The one I read most often with N° 1 (and now read with N° 2) is called Flowers (but there are dozens of different ones within that range and I’d say all are equally good) and boy oh boy did that girl love it! It’s a very simple small little board book that fits the wee hands very well. Once again, it is a wordless, high-contrast, gender neutral book and N° 1 still enjoys it! These days, however, we use it for counting (she can count to two…) and colour naming so once again we got our moneys worth from this one!
Here is N° 1 looking at Baby Sees Flowers when she was 6 months:
…and here, embarrassing as it is, is the state of the book as of today:
And a few pages from Baby Sees Bedtime:
I feel that instilling a love of books is one of the greatest gifts I will have ever given to my daughters. And I can’t wait to blog more about the children’s books my little bookworms and I enjoy.