Squirm is a book lover.
I cannot tell you how happy I am to write those words. Because, although I know a lot of the theory about reading to babies and toddlers, I’d never seen it in action. I never knew what discovering books would look like, or the steps we’d go through in introducing books to Squirm. On top of that, there’s definitely been times when we haven’t been able to read with him as much as we’d like – when he’d fall asleep before we could pick a book up or when he was more interested in leaving gnaw marks over the books than reading them.
It seems that discovering books and reading, like almost everything else, consists of a series of developmental steps. There are things to learn and ways to react before you can move onto the next level. Here’s some of the things we’ve noticed on Squirm’s journey:
Books as Mummy and Daddy’s Voice
This was the first stage of our exploration into books with Squirm. We started reading to him while we were in the hospital, and we discovered that it was a great way to calm him – that he responded really well to the steady rhythm of our voices. This continued when we got home, especially on the nights when he was doing everything he could to stay awake. Our favourite was an old kids book about Australian Aviators. It’s an incredibly detailed book, with tonnes of potential for monotonous reading.
Books as Objects (like everything else)
This phase kicked in once Squirm could pick books up . . . and bring them towards his mouth. Suddenly we needed to consider the books we shared with him in terms of ‘mouthable’ and ‘not mouthable’ (read more about sharing books with a mouthing baby here) Books became things to pick up, move around and put in his mouth, but were very much like other objects in the house. We continued to read to him (all sorts of books, not just the ‘safe’ ones) extending the books as Mummy’s and Daddy’s voice.
Books as Objects (in their own right)
Suddenly books became books! They became objects which had a cover and pages and those pages could be turned. And this was the same in every book, whether it was paper, board, fabric or plastic. This was where the absolutely fabulous ‘That’s not my . . .’ book series was the best. They were sturdy enough to hold up to the mouthing and the enthusiastic little hands, while being small enough to handle. Plus they’ve got a look which is similar from one book to another and fabulous textures which keep little attentions on the page for longer. At this stage there’s been a lot of enthusiastic flipping through books – stories are begun and finished very quickly!
Books as Stories
This is the stage we’ve just reached recently. Squirm still spends ages looking at books, but he’s not quickly flipping through them anymore. Now he’s stopping to examine pictures. And he’s bringing books to us and demanding that we read them to him. Again and again. He has a longer attention span at reading times to – his eyes really taking in the page while he listens to the story. He’s beginning to understand that these objects contain magical things in them – which is a really magical thing to watch.
So what comes next? Well, as Squirm’s language skills develop (we seem to be getting new words all the time) I’m sure we’re going to start dipping into retelling, role playing and story telling. It’s a fascinating journey to watch up close, and one I feel very privileged to witness.