to him?" I heard the young mother asking one of the bookshop staff. She had a very young baby with her and was looking at some books on the table by the door.
"Well of course I would say no," the staff member told her and looked at me, "But ask Cat. She's the expert."
Expert? I wish I was. I often feel I do not know nearly enough about children's reading. I love children's books with a passion. I have taught children to read. I have read widely about both things. Does it make me an expert? I doubt it.
Nevertheless I offered advice. It is never too soon to start reading to your child.
"But he won't understand will he?"
No he won't understand everything but he will hear your voice. He will hear the rhythms and rhymes. He will hear expression in your voice. If you repeat things over and over again he will be learning. You can choose some very simple things and just talk about them.
I showed her some of the excellent early learning books the shop stocks.
"You start with this sort of thing and then go on to these...and then these..."
She sat down on one of the chairs for "small people" and looked at one of the early learning books. I explained,
"Tell him it's a teddy bear...that it is yellow. Talk about the bear having two arms, two legs...say things like "Here's his head. Where's your head? Here's your head."
She looked up at me in amazement and then said, "Of course. It's how you learn to read."
Well it is certainly part of the process. I showed her some other books for older pre-school children and explained why they were useful and how small children tend to love repetition. She found "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and told me, "I still have that. I saved it because I loved it. It's at my Mum's place."
I asked her if she knew about the sessions for mothers, babies and toddlers in the library. No, she didn't know about those. She had only been in the district a few weeks and had not been to the library.
I told her where to go and suggested joining the library and the group as she will be a stay at home mother for the moment. I told her there would be books she could borrow there and that, for a small fee, she could also join the toy library.
She bought the book with the teddy bear picture in it and, as she left, I could hear her talking to her child as he faced her in his baby capsule. Was he listening? I think so. You are never too young to learn.