Raising Readers

Image from the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Image from the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Halifax loves books: every newborn receives a bag of books when they leave the hospital, and we celebrated the opening of a new library with so much fanfare that it quickly became the hippest spot in town. We know reading is fun and parents are encouraged to start early with children, but is reading to babies really necessary in the first year?

Shelly Juurlink, and her husband Perry, love books and they want to pass that along to their children. They started reading to their daughter at birth and now two-and-a-half-year-old Lilah loves books. When their son Lennon was born last spring they included him in the family reading times. As Lennon got older, however, Juurlink says, “his attention span for books became much different than his sister’s at the same age. He wants to go-go-go and often doesn’t have time to sit and read.”

Literacy doesn’t always start by sitting down with a book, says Lesley Dunn, executive director of the Dartmouth Literacy Network; it often starts with talking to your child about the printed words around them. She suggests: “Have plenty of reading material around the home. Talk about things on boxes, packages, flyers, anything where there are printed words. While books are viewed as important, rhyming, finger play and nonsense words help build vocabulary. If we could stress one thing we would say talk to your child.”

The Halifax Public Library’s Baby’s First Books program has been running for over 15 years and is open to babies from 0 to 18 months. Minna Harjupanula, a youth services programmer at the Sackville branch, says it has been carefully designed to teach pre-reading skills through wordplay, songs, and stories, with a side benefit of building a social and support network for parents...