Learning & Development: Resources for under-threes - Picture this!

Claire Stevenson
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Snuggle up with a homemade book to lay firm foundations for reading, says Claire Stevenson.

Language is a fundamental element of children's development, and sharing books is an excellent way to support their learning; it is never too early to start.

Babies investigate books using all of their five senses. It is the smell, the sound, the feel, the taste and the look of the book that will initially capture babies' interest, and their sensory exploration will stimulate connections in their brain.

Babies listen to the rhythm of voices and pick up on sounds long before they can understand the words and their meaning. Repetition is an important part of sharing books in order for children to internalise the pattern of speech. Sharing books, stories and rhymes helps children to develop important skills such as talking and understanding language, listening and responding and cultivates imagination and creativity.

Sharing books also builds on personal, social and emotional development. The EYFS states that 'children will gain physical, psychological and emotional comfort from 'snuggling in'.' Simply sitting closely together contributes to building secure attachments.


You don't need to spend lots of money on books; you can create your own which children will love just as much. Some ideas to try:

- Unique books for each child containing photographs of themselves and the people and things that are special to them are always popular.

- Take a sequence of photographs of a child playing and make them into an interesting book to share with them and their family. Annotate the images with any language the child used or describe their actions as they engaged in play.

- Your observations of children's current interests will provide you with ideas for simple laminated picture books. Many types of vehicles or animals are often well-liked and relevant to children's everyday lives.

- Why not give children digital cameras to use to create their very own photo books?

Adult role

- Choose books appropriate to the child's stage of development.

- Create a comfortable and cosy area to share books.

- Point at the pictures and talk about what you can see to the child.

- Encourage the child to turn the pages.

- To make it interesting, use different tones and voices.

- Speak clearly and in a quiet environment to ensure your words can be heard.

- Make books accessible for babies and young children, perhaps place books in a basket on the floor.

- It is important that practitioners value and respect books to set a good example to children.

In practice

One of our settings has created a cosy book area with giant textured cushions and thoughtfully displayed teddies reading, to entice the babies to look at books. They have made each baby a family book of photographs with key language which is accessible at all times. These have proven to be extremely popular with the children. Children love looking at each other's books and naming their friends.

- Claire Stevenson is a birth to three adviser for Northamptonshire council

- DfES, (2007) The Early Years Foundation Stage
- www.talktoyourbaby.org.uk
- www.earlyreadingconnects.org.uk
- www.bookstart.org.uk/early-years-professionals
- PR 2.3 Supporting Learning
- LD 4.1 Play and Exploration

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