Not too long ago, a new mum of an eight-month-old mentioned to me how excited she felt that her baby was no longer just interested in trying to chew on books whenever she attempted to read to him.
He was starting to sit in her lap and look at the pages while she read. She could even get through several books at a time!
As someone who’s always been passionate about reading aloud to young children — I especially loved reading to my own every night — I could absolutely understand her excitement. However, her comment also jogged something else that I’ve become increasingly passionate about over my many years as a parent, a paediatrician and an early educator: that is, the concept of putting “WIGGLE Skills” to work.
Think about it… Have you ever asked yourself why it is that we have come to believe that reading must always be a stationary activity? Why, based on all we know about physical restlessness going hand in hand with intellectual restlessness and curiosity, do we still picture an eager and engaged child who is truly ready to learn as one who sits perfectly still, criss-cross apple sauce on a defined spot on a reading rug and doesn’t fidget, move, or otherwise WIGGLE while listening to stories? Or, for that matter, one who keeps books out of his mouth?
With seven kids living under her roof, Dr Ginni has found some creative ways to raise them. Post continues…
It’s hardly this mum or any parent’s fault that we’ve come to believe that’s the only way our children will absorb the stories that we read. But when you take a moment to think about how much young children not only need to WIGGLE, but can actually benefit from doing so, this image can sometimes be counter-productive – especially if it means we don’t read to them unless they’re able to sit “perfectly” still.
If that isn’t already enough to make you stop and think, I’d even go so far as to suggest that handling and chewing on books is one of the very earliest precursors to literacy. After all, we know that in order to become proficient in a skill down the road, young children (and adults, for that matter) first have to be interested, curious and engaged.
For an infant, using their mouth and their hands are the WIGGLE tools they have available at that stage for exploring the world – and the books – around them.
When viewed in this light, the idea of gumming and drooling on the corners of a book as a precursor to literacy doesn’t seem so outrageous. From there, toddlers soon learn to hold the book, and turn the pages, followed by the discovery that there are words on those pages. Before long, they realise those pages contain the stories they love that one day they’ll learn to read for themselves.