I would like to welcome Misty Weaver to The Book Chook blog. Mother to a 2 year old, and now pregnant with twins, Misty Weaver is the editor-in-chief for BabySignLanguage.com, a new site that has lots of helpful information on how parents can teach their kids Baby Sign Language. Baby Sign Language is a cool way for parents to communicate with their children before their children can actually speak. It has been shown to boost development as well. The site is full of free resources including free videos, free flash cards and free tutorials. Feel free to check it out for yourself, visit Baby Sign Language and let her know what you think.
Introducing Literacy to Your Baby
by Misty Weaver
Literacy encompasses far more than the ability to read. It’s about being able to communicate with the world. It’s a way of relating to the world. And our babies are ready to be introduced to this relationship the second they enter the world!
We start communicating with our baby from day one. We nurse them, hold them, murmur to them, sing to them, swaddle them – each of these acts sends a message. We read to them from week one, and whether or not we recognize it, they do respond to this communication. It does mean something to them.
As the weeks go by, our efforts get more sophisticated. We can communicate with our babies by just doing what comes naturally, or we can make a conscious effort to help our babies understand the world. We can make a conscious effort to encourage our babies to communicate. This is one of the things we accomplish with reading. Sure, we can read to our babies when the fancy strikes us, but what a difference we can make if we make a commitment to read regularly. And not just reading, but singing along to the book, and taking the time to make silly faces and silly sounds.
We can make a commitment to talking to our babies. We can say, “Look at the flower,” “Smell the flower,” “Touch the flower.” At the same time, we can introduce the Sign Language sign for flower, and help baby to make the sign in return. By making these efforts, we are making our child literate in the world of flowers, and as all of these different worlds interact with one another, we layer literacies upon one another until our children develop a literacy with the world, a way of interacting with, thinking about, understanding, and communicating with the world. Yes, this involves reading and writing, but it just as importantly involves thinking, feeling, and experiencing. We are building an invaluable foundation for our babies!
Part of this foundation building, is of course, the skill of speech. Parents and caregivers, for obvious reasons, place a lot of emphasis on the development of this skill. Speaking is an important way of processing, relating to, and communicating with the world! And research suggests that speaking skills correspond to reading skills later on. One of the ways parents can help to build a strong foundation is to introduce Baby Sign Language .
Toddlers are able to understand speech long before they have the fine motor abilities to pronounce words, so sign language can help babies to bridge this communication gap. It is easy to introduce baby sign language, and you can use just a few signs, or you can teach your baby dozens. Simply find a Baby Sign Language Dictionary, preferably one with video, and learn a few signs yourself. Then, whenever you say a word, make the corresponding sign. This will provide your baby with yet another way to relate sounds with objects, and to relate feelings with events. Sign Languagecan provide yet another building block in your literacy foundation.
Each parent will, no doubt, employ his or her own style of foundation-building, based on his or her own relationship with the world. What matters is that we make a conscious effort, recognizing that literacy, the ability to communicate efficiently, is necessary to living a happy life. It is imperative that we make these efforts with our babies. Sing silly songs. Teach your child the sign for monkey. Read as many rhyming books as you can. And make sure you say, “moo” every time you drive by a cow. Each and every brick makes the foundation stronger.