Reading to Children: Language Rhythm
Winnie Shiraishi is an American writer and teacher living in Japan. She recently had her first baby, and reading books in English is already a big part of her little daughter’s life
Reading has always been an important part of my life. My earliest childhood memories are of my mother taking me to the library. My mother was an avid reader and there were always books in the house. Naturally, reading books became an early habit. My daughter is only five months old, but I want her to develop a reading habit, too. Already she is learning about about books the same way she learns everything else–through observation and experience. If she enjoys the books I read to her, she’ll learn to choose one herself and bring it to me.
Raising my daughter in Japan, she will be exposed to spoken Japanese everywhere she goes, but her exposure to spoken English will be up to me. I choose to read English language books to her so that she will be come accustomed to the sounds and rhythms of the English language. Research shows that when parents read to children, children pick up the habit of reading, and they also learn the rhythms of language. So reading English books to children can be the first step in learning English.
For nighttime reading I chose the American children’s classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I read the book to my daughter while giving her soothing, gentle touches helping her settle into sleep. This will let her associate book time with pleasant and comforting experiences.
For daytime reading, I chose Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. This books is more upbeat so I read it in a louder, musical voice. I also engage with her in a more active way–tickling, holding, and rolling her gently from side to side. Hopefully, she can associate the sounds from this book with fun and think of books as a ‘fun time’ activity.
Here is a YouTube video of Bill Martin Jr. reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
My goal is to instill in my daughter a love of books as early as possible.