Let’s start at the very beginning
My early language experiences influence my reading behaviour to this day. Sitting alongside me is ‘Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids‘. It is not a Bookwagon title for it is neither relevant to nor available in Britain.
‘Mary, Mary from Cockle Bay Dairy/ How does your garden grow?/ With kowhai bells and paua shells,/ And painted white tyres in a row.’
Feelings of ‘home’ elicited by the rhyme, original verse, humour and the New Zealand language compelled me to buy this book.
Recently, Bookwagon worked with award-winning poet, Joseph Coelho. I was fortunate enough to share his busy lunch break. We compared our early memories of books and poetry. Joseph Coelho did not grow up in a book-rich household. However, he remembers the rhyme and rhythm of Dr Seuss’s ‘Cat in the Hat‘. He recollects his grandmother’s word play. This kindled his own pleasure in playing with words.
Joseph Coelho recalls building an early library habit. He enjoyed a well stocked school library with opportunities to choose books during scheduled class visits and other times each week. His early language experiences influence reading behaviour and his career path, ultimately.
Children who grow up in a language rich household have an advantage over their peers. Brain imaging technology confirms this. From birth to three years of age, infant synapses are ‘hard-wiring’. Children’s exposure to language during this stage is unique.
During the first six months of life, a baby can differentiate between individual sounds entirely. The brain’s auditory cortex is never so responsive. After this period, sounds outside an infant’s native language cannot be distinguished. Confident signals course an accurate route created through early language stimulus. The brain has been ignited with synapses that will not atrophy.
Through offering very young children experiences to engage, hear, listen to and practise language, parents are supporting their child’s brain development for language. Early language experiences influence reading behaviour and more.
What we see
I have rejoiced in seeing children during my teaching career, and in my own family, who have enjoyed informed, dedicated, early language experiences.
Daniel Craig faced unwarranted criticism for carrying his infant daughter in a papoose, recently. Informed parents of my acquaintance have delighted in similar baby bonding methods. They have also engaged in conversation, songs, rhyme and reading. Their babies are being stimulated. These children are being engaged through hearing, listening to, practising and sharing language. What a dynamic start!
What we experience
Bookwagon works diligently to curate a selection of books for its new readers. Recently, we’ve added two by Colombian picture book maker Claudia Rueda. Bunny Slopes and Hungry Bunny. Both engage readers through direct graphics, but also through instructions to readers to make the story happen, so ‘Tilt!‘ ‘ or ‘Stretch’. There is such curiosity and focus in these wonderful books.
What we do
Positive early language experiences influence reading behaviour indubitably. Children learn from their environment. They are quick to mimic the behaviour of their key people. If they grow up with readers, they will read. They learn from us. What we hold dear, so will they.
Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell’s essential A Great Big Cuddle Poems for the Very Young has been edited to produce a smaller, language rich title for the very youngest readers. Wiggly Wiggly takes the sounds, rhythms and rhymes from its ‘mother ship’. It offers a unique early language experience. Babies engage with sounds, repetition, humour and portrait style pictures.
Bookwagon has run an ‘offer’ on two superb titles by Caryl Hart and Edward Underwood. I have been loathe to withdraw it, for the two titles are outstanding. Big Box Little Box and One Shoe Two Shoes support early language experiences through rhyme, investigation, novelty and rich, black outlined pictures. The titles, like ‘Wiggly Wiggly‘ are created by sure hands of excellence.
Children whose early language experiences include rhyme have auditory and learning advantages. Nonsense rhymes from ‘One Currant Bun’ to superb titles like Car, Car, Truck, Jeep, sung to the tune of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ build an understanding and memory of sound.
We work hard to find genuinely good rhyming books for infants. By good, I mean titles where the rhyme scheme is uniform and structured. Combined with its rich images, Gus’s Garage has proved a great find for Bookwagon, and our readers. A recent international award winner, that invites participation with its young readers is Happy Birthday to You!
What we learn
Opportunities to learn more obviously are included within a number of our Bookwagon texts. Participation and comparison through direct sensory invitations are included in titles, including Hi-Five Animals! and Who is the Biggest?
What we feel
Early language experiences influence reading behaviour in another way. Through bonding with books, we offer infants loving security. Books are a haven. They offer us the opportunity to experience a full gamut of human emotions. There is the ‘chance to dream’ that Lauren Child, our current children’s laureate, recommends. Building a love of books is like a double layer of warmth and protection and sensitivity. Who could deny this for their new reader?
We discovered two beautiful early picture books ideal for bonding upon, recently. Hug Me, Please! and The Secret Life of a Tiger are exceptionally lovely titles. They offer a suggestion of a secret bond, to be shared only between the readers and the books.
There are so many different ways that reading opportunities are not ‘fair’. School funding is pressured, libraries are threatened. We have stagnated reading recommendations and a disposable/ discounted bargain bin reading process, in many instances. However, as a society, we can do something about it.
Consistent, positive early learning experiences influence reading behaviour. Children benefit from hearing the full wealth of home languages. They benefit from rhyme and repetition, and participation and engagement with books from the outset. Word play, a library habit, positive influences, and opportunities to bond over books offer our children something fair, unique and wonderful.