I have been a bookworm and books were my best friends since childhood. I intended to do the same for my son.
I still remember being gifted many small board books when my son was born and, some when he turned 6 months. My first response when I got these books was: how will this tiny bundle understand what books are, let alone words or language or illustrations in it! It was a time when I was doing extensive research online and discovered that books can be introduced as early as 3 months.
Having said that, I still attempted to open and keep books in front of my six month old. The first time, he took them in his hand very professionally (holding it and keeping it in front of his face), and decided to utilize his gross motor skills and tore a book. The matronly instinct in me made me take away the book away from him and scold him. After that I made sure I hand books to him only if I am sitting with him.
Mommy instincts & “let-go” approach
The first time mommy instinct in me took over and made me constantly indulge in: don’t touch this, don’t tear that, don’t create a mess etc. After a while, it became clear to me that the “don’t do this or that” approach will not work with my energetic toddler as he often challenged me by deliberately doing things to catch my attention.
Another thought that occurred to me was I might make him averse to books by constantly saying negative. Slowly I adopted the “let-go” approach with him by letting him handle books as he pleased. I realized he was trying to explore books. Eventually he stopped biting books or tearing them too; in fact he loved turning pages and simply looking at pictures.
His first books were “touch-and-feel” books. He learned texture as well as various objects/animals. Then slowly went on to board books. Both the above mentioned are picture rich. After he turned 2, it became a night time ritual to read out stories – he was in love with mythological and animal tales at one point! Slowly I got hard book covers and paperbacks. The stories graduated to small kids and adults in his language. The tone of my story telling changed from baby voices to adult tones. That I believe was the turning point for developing his vocabulary and language. Another vital lesson learnt was that speaking in normal adult language (voice and tone) helps kids learn languages faster, especially the mother tongue.
I admit I introduced stories quite late to him but as a 3.8 year old now, he loves stories of any type. So I do not believe that if you have introduced books later too, it is perfectly fine.
It all began with familiarizing him with the book texture, doing picture talk, showing and reading stories on objects/birds/animals/humans, and gradually making him hear stories (sometimes with, and without books too).
Story Telling v/s visual media
I believe developing listening and comprehension skills are as important for developing imagination for a child. Hence the last medium is very important to be started at an early age. So my suggestion would be to start narrating stories without any visual mediums (books/TV/CDs).
The biggest advantages of storytelling are:
- You will have undivided attention of the toddler.
- Improved listening skills and concentration
- Wild and colourful imagination developed (vital to brain development)
- Thoughts and perceptions remain unbiased thanks to no visual mediums, which are mostly an overload for a small kid.
Lastly, the more you tell stories, the more the child will be interested to know what lies in those colourful pages.