Start reading early – share stories with your baby
By Amy Quinn, Doorstep Library Lambeth Project Coordinator
You can never start reading too early. At Doorstep Library, we are firm believers that you are never too young to enjoy a book. That’s why our home reading sessions actively involve all members of the family. Our youngest participant in a session so far was a mere 10 days old! Doorstep Library knows all too well the importance of early intervention, and we are committed to ensuring that our projects highlight and model the importance of reading in the early years.
Why start reading early?
From the age of 0-5 children’s brains are growing at an enormous rate – this development can influence cognitive functions such as language skills, as well as social and emotional behaviours. The statistics below show how vital this period of a child’s life is:
- In the first years of life, 1 million new connections are formed every second in a baby’s brain.
- Children’s development at just 22 months has been shown to predict their qualifications at 26 years
- The gap between disadvantaged pupils and all others is evident even when children begin school at age 5, and grows bigger at every stage of education afterwards
Sharing stories and engaging children with books is just one way that parents and carers can influence their child’s development – from vocabulary and speech to motor skills and attention span.
Early years partnerships
Doorstep Library’s early years’ provision has been enhanced by a number of exciting partnerships over the past few years. Funding from Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) has allowed us to focus specifically on 0-3s on our Brixton and Tulse Hill projects. LEAP aims to transform the lives of babies, children and their parents by bringing together a variety of early years’ programmes. It is then hoped that “LEAP’s learning and evidence can positively influence early years’ services across Lambeth and beyond.” In Lambeth, we have been able to adapt our approach to weekly reading sessions depending on the age of the child we are visiting. Volunteers may spend one session using a sensory ‘touch and feel’ book to engage an eight-month-old while reading a rhyming picture book to a four-year-old who is beginning to recognise words. Reading, singing, pointing, listening, babbling (and even chewing!) – everything is a learning opportunity in our sessions with 0-3s. Thanks to our partnership with LEAP we have been able to train volunteers on the best methods to engage this age group.
Meanwhile, our new partnership with the Ovo Foundation will allow Doorstep Library to build on the learnings of our Lambeth projects by engaging with children aged 0-5 across all of our existing projects. Resource packs will be provided for parents to support their child’s early development and help connect them to early years’ services in their local community. Signposting to additional community services is a key element of the Doorstep Library programme, and we hope that these packs will be able to provide concise and useful information for parents, as well as practical support for their babies. We will also be looking at developing our current training for volunteers to include an early years focus, showing them the best way to engage the very youngest members of the family and modelling great practice for parents and carers in hopes of getting them to start reading early.
Books for all ages
Finally, we wouldn’t be able to run our reading sessions without a whole range of early years resources. Our volunteers are adept at choosing a variety of books to suit children aged 0-5 and have been trained in the specifics of which books will engage our youngest readers. For example, we have a special selection of black and white books for babies under the age of six months. At this age, babies can see bold contrasting colours best, so black and white books are perfect for their vision. We are incredibly thankful for our friends at Give a Book who support us by providing brand new copies of books that we need most – particularly baby books, which face a lot of wear and tear from the babies and toddlers on our visits! We have also developed ‘Story Sacks’ for children who may not yet be engaged with books. These Sacks include finger puppets, instruments and tactile cloths alongside a book, so that children, volunteers and parents can use their imaginations to act out a story.
Doorstep Library is committed to early intervention and encouraging our youngest children to become lifelong readers. The impact that reading for pleasure can have on a child’s life is well documented, with researchers suggesting it is a “more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background”. That’s why at Doorstep Library you can never start reading too early!
For more information about the benefits of Doorstep Library’s work please visit: https://www.doorsteplibrary.org.uk/the-benefits/children/
 Sullivan and Brown (2013) Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading