International Children's Book Day: The importance of children's books
Language development is very important in the early years, from communicating using facial expressions, movement of the body and crying, to the use of verbal and sign language.
The minds of young children are like sponges, they have the ability to absorb a lot more than adults do, they are able to acquire thousands of words and use them to communicate. Using the whole language approach, listening, speaking, reading and writing, lays the foundation for language development.
A print-rich environment that encourages children to practice literacy skills is important, and one of the key habits to inculcate in your child is reading. Reading helps children visualise different scenarios, associate with different characters, empathises with them, and understand the world around.
Research shows that from as early as the first months through the second year of life, children's experiences with oral language development and literacy begin to build a foundation for later reading success. An infant's brain develops a "native language map" between the fourth and eighth month wherein a neuron is assigned to every sound, hence talking and reading to infants is very important.
From two to three years of age, children begin to produce understandable speech in response to books and the written marks they create. From three through four years of age, children show rapid growth in literacy. They begin to "read" their favourite books by themselves, focusing mostly on re-enacting the story from the pictures. Eventually, they progress from telling about each picture individually to weaving a story from picture to picture, using language that sounds like reading or written language.
At this time, children also experiment with writing by forming scribbles, letter-like forms, and random strings of letters. They also begin to use "mock handwriting" to imitate adult cursive writing. Letter-like forms or "mock letters" are the young child's attempt to form alphabetic letters; these forms of writing eventually will develop into standard letters. Between two and six years, a child's vision wiring matures, motor coordination is achieved and s/he is able to think critically. The preschooler is now capable of a longer attention span and rapidly develops a larger vocabulary -- hence this period is a good time to introduce reading. When using various forms of writing, children maintain their intention to create meaning and will often "read" their printed messages using language that sounds like reading.
Armed with this information, we now know that children need good books to refer to and learn from. Children need role models to look up to, so you need to make sure you walk the talk, introducing them to inspiring books, movies, and stories that set positive examples and help build their life story.
Even though parents today are aware that they need to be mindful when dealing with their children, yet a lot of them are lost around how to go about building strong personalities for their children. Therefore, we need to write great children's books that cover relevant topics, age-appropriate content and connect to real life -- books that are engaging and fun, catering to all learning styles.