Whatever his age, your child will tend to “adopt” one or more favourite books. He’ll ask you to tell him the same story over and over again and he never seems to get tired of it. Why? According to literacy mediator Catherine D’Anjou, children ask for the same story again and again because they experienced a feeling of well-being when the book was read to them before, and they want to feel that way again. It’s also because children need to look at a book and hear a story several times before they are able to assimilate everything it contains (words, pictures, characters and story). “It’s rewarding and reassuring for the child to be familiar with the elements of the story and be able to anticipate them,” she explains.
Your child will invariably have a favourite book or books he’ll bring you so that you can read it to him.
François Blain, an early literacy researcher and educator, agrees: “Through repetition of the same story, a child will feel that he has a certain control over what’s happening in the story and the emotions the story makes him feel.” By observing your child’s reactions while you read, you might notice, for example, that he hides under the blankets when he knows the ogre is going to show up on the next page, or he’ll show delight as you come up to the story’s happy ending. He experiences the same pleasures each time the story is read. And as he does not yet have much capacity for generalizing what he is learning, it may take a while before he discovers that another book can give him just as much enjoyment.
“Every morning and evening, to help them settle down or unwind a bit, our kids ask us to read books to them. Sometimes it’s the same ones, over and over again, for several days in a row. And then all of a sudden one morning we’ll come across one of them ’reading’ that same book to a bunch of teddy bears propped up in his lap ’so they can see the pictures’!"
- Mélanie Aucoin and Daniel Ernwein, parents of two teenage girls and of Raphaël, age 3 1/2, and Étienne, age 2.
The right time for reading
As he handles the book and learns to turn its pages, your baby will develop his fine motor skills.
Many parents associate reading stories with their children’s bedtime routine. This is definitely a quieter time when kids are more receptive and their attention is more focused. However, reading doesn’t have to be restricted to your family’s evening routine. Any time and any place is good: first thing in the morning, when you’re having a quiet time during the day, at bathtime, or sitting on the living room floor, at the kitchen table or on a bench at the park! The important thing is to find a time that you and your child will want to share together. However, it’s better not to interrupt children to suggest looking at a book if they’re absorbed in a game or other activity, as they won’t be receptive to reading at that time.
“Shortly before we were leaving for a vacation, I found a picture book on that topic. I’d take a few moments here and there during the day to look at it with my son Manoé. When we left, I reminded him about some of the things in the story, using the same words: ‘We’re going for a drive,’ ‘We’re going to wake up in a cottage that isn’t our house’ or ‘We’re going for a walk on the beach.’ I was surprised to find, from his reactions and his smiles, that even though he was very young, he was making connections and seemed to understand that we were talking about the same things that were in the book.”
- Janou-Ève LeGuerrier, mother of Manoé, age 10 months
Some initiatives worth noting
Une naissance, un livre For children age 0 to 12 months. Children who are registered at their library before their first birthday receive a complimentary gift package. To find a participating library near you, visit: cbq.banq.qc.ca and click on "Find a library".
Contact, le plaisir des livres! This mediation program is designed for parents and children under the age of 5, with special emphasis on residents in underprivileged areas and newcomers to Canada, in order to facilitate social integration.
Your municipal library Early literacy activities for infants are available in a growing number of libraries. Find out more!