Baby Play and Baby Look are the first two books in the new Baby Steps series by co-authors Carol McDougall and Shanda LaRamee-Jones (Nimbus Publishing). It is obvious from the moment you pick up these delightful books that the authors have done their research into what is developmentally appropriate for baby’s first language and literacy experiences. McDougall, a librarian, and LaRamee-Jones, an elementary school teacher, realized their common interest in the development of literacy during the early years while volunteering in the Read To Me! Nova Scotia Family Literacy program.
“By gifting a bag of books to parents of newborns and adopted children the program intends to raise awareness of the important role books play in language and literacy development in the early years,” explains LaRamee-Jones, provincial coordinator for the program. Although most consider language to be developing when we begin to hear a child speak their first words, research shows it is actually in the first months after birth when every consonant and vowel spoken to a baby is shaping their neural development. “After years of many conversations and observations Shanda and I felt inspired to create our own books which we believe offers baby an ideal learning experience,” adds McDougall, the program’s director. In sharing Baby Play and Baby Look with your baby you will certainly be creating an excellent “learning through play” environment.
With this in mind, in Baby Play, your baby is exposed to rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, intonation and emotional literacy all squeezed into twelve pages. Short enough to hold baby’s attention but long enough to cover a plethora of early language skills.
The book covers the key moments in baby’s day from the first eye contact and interaction between parent and child in the morning through playtime, bath time and time spent outside. With subtlety the authors raise the reader’s awareness to the natural cues baby gives, signals to which not all adults are attuned. They have cleverly woven in a lesson for the reader with “Baby, baby turning away. What’s that you say? Had enough play? Well…that’s ok. Enough for today”. A subtle lesson to every parent and caregiver on how to read baby’s body language and know when enough is enough.
Throughout the book there is one theme, which is reiterated time and again…Love. You read it in the text, you see it in the pictures and you feel it in the interactions between parent and child. That is one four letter word that parent, caregiver or child should never get tired of hearing. Again it is an important message which every emotionally developing baby needs to overdose on and the co-authors’ awareness of this is repeatedly apparent. “Not everyone is comfortable in verbalizing the love they feel. “Our hope is that by reading Baby Play out loud, the word “love” becomes a more integral part of the reader’s language,” explains LaRamee-Jones.
Baby Look adopts a different function being in a concertina style, which is an ideal format for those oh so crucial tummy times. With this book fully extended, babies can see the faces of seven uniquely different infants smiling at them.
In preparation for this article I held a little focus group of my own; I had the opportunity to show Baby Look to a friend’s six-month-old son and watched with interest as his eyes opened wide with wonder. He then giggled, smiled and reached for each individual baby to greet and socialize with them. It was as if he had woken up from his nap to find seven new friends had come to his crib for an impromptu play date. Flip the book over and you have a panorama of action pictures as the same babies crawl, clap, drum, splash, eat and kiss their way round your baby’s very own gallery. This simple text adds an auditory learning experience to an already important visual one. Taken one step further by acting out the text the reader can get physical with baby’s developmental movement.
Both board books are durable and at six and a half inches square are ideal for popping in the side pocket of your diaper bag, the car seat pouch or displaying on baby’s bookshelf. There is something refreshingly unique in the use of real life baby models for the photography of these books. With each one set against a white background the babies’ skin tones, hair colours, features and clothing become very vivid especially for the developing vision of infants. At an affordable $8.95 each they are an inexpensive way of investing in your child’s early childhood development.
It is never too early to begin nurturing a love of books in your child and this series will certainly get your infant off to a great start.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Atlantic Books Today