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A growing body of research indicates that parents’ and caregivers attitudes and expectations about infants’ awareness and sensory abilities may be predictive of developmental growth. A study called symbolic gesturing in language development, (Human Development, 28, 53-58), by Acredolo and Goodwyn (1985)  showed:

The earlier a mother thought her baby would be aware of the world, the more competent her baby grew to be. Why was this so? It is because the mothers treated the babies according to their expectations. In home visits, researchers observed that mothers who knew more about their infants abilities were more emotionally and verbally responsive to their babies. They talked to them more. They provided them with more appropriate play materials and initiated more stimulating experiences. And they were more likely to allow their babies to explore the world around them.

Early in life, infants and parents form a reciprocal relationship, reacting in special ways to each other, says Jeanne Machado in Early Childhood Experiences in Language Arts. The quality and quantity of caregiver attention becomes an important factor in language development.

The Children’s Reading Foundation suggests that parents read aloud to their child for at least 20 minutes every day.

Babies love to hear their mothers’ and fathers’ voices. Hold babies close and talk to them and read to them from the very first day.

Several colleagues and I were asked to write a set of reviews for Parents Magazine, suggesting the best children's books of 2011. Here are three of the baby books we recommended:

Octopus Opposites by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Stephanie Bauer, explores one animal pair per spread and features simple rhymes ("Octopus fat, octopus thin. Sea urchin out, sea urchin in"). A few of the comparisons are clunky (snow leopard climb, snow leopard fall), but most do an effective job of showing the differences. The last two spreads answer the question, "…where do all these creatures go?" and provide a simple illustration of their habitats. The text is accompanied by vivid, appealing acrylic drawings surrounded by textured borders, with backgrounds painted in thick strokes. An attractive, useful concept book. - from School Library Journal

Octopus Opposites is clever, with layers of interactivity to bring in as a child develops more and more language. Rich vocabulary, bright and interesting illustrations, deep ideas, sensible rhyme, and a larger story that connects across the book make this a book that invites thinking. A summary page at the end replicates the rhymes and the pictures.

Bear's Birthday, by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Debbie Harter, is another story with an additional sub-story. Many board book publishers assume that young children don't need texts with complete sentences, but the opposite is the reality. Bear's Birthday offers simple, but full, sentences that tell a simple story. On each page, children can count the number of balloons, with each subsequent page showing one less. At the end of the story, the children invited to count again and look closely to see what is happening to the balloons. It turns out that Bear's long-clawed cat likes to play with balloons! This book is good both for counting and for its story.

Baby Says "Moo!" by Joann Early Macken, illustrated by David Walker is filled with sweet rhymes and adorable art.

Ask Baby what people say, what dogs say, what horses say, or what birds say, and Baby has only one answer: "MOO!" Ride along with Baby and family from the busy, dizzy city to the quiet countryside. They just might spot the animal that actually makes Baby's favorite sound! Filled with sweet rhymes and adorable art, Baby Says "Moo!" is sure to delight every baby who has ever said "moo!"

Decades of research have proven the value of reading aloud to children, and the years between birth and age two are arguably the most crucial for language development, according to Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez in Baby Read-Aloud Basics: Fun and Interactive Ways to Help Your Little One Discover the World of Words. As a parent, it's important that you help your baby acquire the foundation they need to speak earlier, read on their own sooner, and benefit from an increased vocabulary and attention span.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sun Jul 17, 2011 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

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