By Marie Moébius
Every Tuesday at 4pm, we invite toddlers inside the children’s room of the Biblioteca for a group reading session. This activity offered to young children from a few months old to 4 years old is one of the most successful: since we began on September 21st, our youngest readers and their family have come in number. And they seem to like it a lot, because many come back, week after week.
The “Read With Your Baby” sessions always go the same way: babies and their parents are invited to comfortably sit on our foamy carpet and cushions. To catch the attention of the young readers, and mark the beginning of the activity, we always first sing a song together. Then the reading can begin! One designated volunteer conducts the session and reads out loud the books he chooses. The toddlers are a fantastic audience: they are expressive, participative and always eager to listen to the next story. You can really see how they enjoy the activity! After 30 minutes of listening to the stories, the young readers and their parents are invited to be autonomous in the library room during 15 minutes: they can move around, pick the books they like, read it or just look at it, simply enjoy a moment and a space of freedom. We conclude the session with a few last stories told to the whole group. The good-bye song calls the end of the activity.
Why do we promote reading at an early age?
Shared family reading time with children younger than 4 years old has many benefits, even if babies don’t have the capacity to read. Reading stories at this early age when language is not yet acquired is a fantastic way to stimulate curiosity and engagement with the surrounding world, thanks to the musicality of the words and the stimulation of the colors and shapes of illustrations. Reading and being read to from a very young age stimulates and encourages language acquisition, develops imagination, empathy and strengthens concentration.
Beyond the benefits for early childhood development, creating a special moment for reading also fosters a tender relationship between the adult and the child. It is an activity of exchange and mutual listening that strengthens the adult/child bond. Often, parents are unfamiliar with the best techniques to read to their toddler. The program encourages adults to read with their children in a simple way that can be easily reproduced at home.
The “Read with your Baby” program received financial help from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. With this support, we were able to buy books and adequate furniture. It involves the participation of 8 volunteers specifically trained to conduct this activity. It benefits 6 to 8 toddlers each week, and we believe we will soon be able to open more sessions. If you want to take part in the sessions, whether you are a father, an uncle, a grand-mother, or just a neighbor of a toddler, you are welcome, every Tuesday at 4pm, inside the Children’s room of the Biblioteca. The sessions are 100% free of charge.