If you are looking for a baby shower gift or a gift for an infant I recommending looking past busy, flashing and active toys and consider a really simple, beautiful book. Active toys are often used to pacify a child and books offer so much more. A carefully selected book will be appreciated by even the most minimalist family and is completely recyclable. But do babies really need books?
Here are a few reasons we provide books in the newborn and infant stage.
- Books provide the opportunity for visual stimulation including focus, tracking, and visual discrimination from birth.
- Reading to an infant can provide important bonding time including one on one time with siblings or extended family members. Reading is often a calming activity that all members of the family can participate in. Very young (prereading) siblings can tell a story based on the pictures.
- Reading provides exposure to verbal language including rhythm, rhyme, tone, speech patterns and a rich assortment of words.
- Reading to an infant can make us slow down, put our feet up, take our time, remove all background noise and relax with the child.
Black and white images provide important visual input in the newborn stage and reading, any kind of book allows the child to experience the warmth and familiarity of our voice.
I love books that teach children about the world around them, that are beautiful, don't discriminate and that celebrate diversity. Well-chosen books can be powerful, calming, soothing. When selecting books be aware of personal bias, we may select books that are familiar, are popular or because we read them as a child, but pay attention to the story or message the book is sending.
We know that having images for the child to focus on (artwork, prints), and storytelling or singing to an infant are important too. We also know that close contact where the infant can clearly see your mouth and face is needed, not where your face is always obscured by a book!
In the infant stage, I put a few books in a basket, so those who can sit can choose their own book. For a slightly older child, we use a small bookshelf where the books are forward facing. It's also good to remember to limit the number of books available so not to overwhelm, and to allow the child to look after and when possible put away their own books!