World Book Day, 2nd March, is the biggest celebration of its kind designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading" from worldbookday.com
For this World Book Day I want everyone to join my campaign to introduce reading where it actually begins - in the womb, and here's how to do it.
All of your baby's senses begin their development in the womb and their hearing specifically is one that you can nurture and develop. The indentations that will become their ears form around nine weeks of pregnancy and by approximately 17/18 weeks your baby will hear their first sounds! This continues to develop over the next few weeks and so by 24 weeks they become more sensitive to sound. The next few weeks after this your baby will begin to respond to the sounds your baby hears through the womb.
Babyopathy nurtures this ability to naturally help your baby develop - hence reading begins in the womb
Your baby will recognise your voice tones and the patterns of your voice when reading the story. However, there are many other benefits to you doing this.
• You will be relaxing which means you will be producing serotonin which is well known for the role it plays in your mood and reducing stress and anxiety. When you are stressed your body produces cortisol which can pass through the womb to your baby, which can have a direct effect on their brain development. The more you relax, the less cortisol you produce.
• By reading to your baby your voice tones and patterns will be familiar and therefore comforting to your baby when they are born in to a world of sensory overload!
• By reading at the same time each day (around the time you want to introduce bedtime) you will be creating a familiar routine before your baby is even born helping you to establish their routine in their first few weeks.
Baby's first weeks - Bedtime
Your baby is here and that means you actually get to read to your baby but for now we are just going to stick to the bedtime routine as this is a very important part of their wellbeing. The reason we start with the bedtime story and keep only to this one for the first six weeks is to encourage your baby to recognise that this is the start of 'night time' and eventually sleeping through the night. Following the same routine as you have been doing when pregnant will reinforce what your baby has been experiencing until now and nurture them in to a day and night routine.
Your bedtime story will be different to reading during the day.
• Set the right 'bedtime' environment; after bath time when they are warm and settled, dim the lights, use a reading light or your salt lamp
• Quieten your voice and be expressive but not excitable (the aim is to be familiar, comforting and encourage sweet dreams).
• Repetition is key and at the same time of time as this is how habits form and a routine is just a habit after all.
Six weeks and beyond
As well as continuing to read your chosen bedtime story (at bedtime) you can also introduce reading throughout the day! My son was holding his own head and very interested in the world around him at five weeks old and so simple books that he could also experience by touching he loved! This is where you can really become expressive with your storytelling. Tone and expression of voice, your own interest and excitement in the story is what will inspire your baby, not just to eventually read and enjoy books but also to develop their own sense of awe and wonder, expression and excitement.
You can influence and nurture their responses in a very positive way. How you read to your baby is crucial to their development.
• Be present in the story, this may sound strange but if your mind is really thinking about something else you should be doing then you will just be reading the words, not the story.
• Be animated, this is an obvious follow on from the last point but a valid one in its own right. By making the story interesting using your tone of voice or different voices if there are characters or using sound effects etc will light a spark in your baby's imagination and interest.
• Be interactive, with animation gives you the opportunity to involve your baby. Help them to touch the textures (many baby books will have touch and feel pages), say the word as they experience the feeling of 'fluffy or smooth'.