Reading from Day One
Your children have been making meaning since day one. They have been reading your cues; your facial cues, your words, and tone. They have been reading your heartbeat! They know that when the lullaby is played, it is time to go to sleep. They already have a sophisticated way of reading their world. Reading letters is a large leap in cognition, for it is using symbols to stand for these experiences. The concrete interactions become abstract. The child plays the visual in his mind as he hears the song or the story. You go to sit in the rocking chair and the child does the symbol for milk.
A wonderful way to fill this concrete experience time is with music and movement. This is why I am such a big fan of Music Together. Simple melodies, simple arrangements, simple songs; Great Big Meaning! These melodies that have resonated with people for generations. Having these songs part of your day, your family time, your relationship with your child, provides concrete context and meaning.
You are your child's meaning maker! So sing, dance, and have some fun! Use hand gestures to act out, "John, The Rabbit". Use your face to express your feeling about the rabbit eating your garden vegetables. A two minute song provides a whole lot of background experiences.
In the book, "The Evolution of Childhood, Relationships, Emotion, Mind. by Melvin Konner. He thoroughly explores the 'Darwinian interpretation of human devolpment. So if "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"- Dobzhansky. He extends this to show that nothing in childhood makes sense except in the light of evolution."
A child comes into the world with many sensory systems incomplete.The auditory system of humans is in place at birth but takes 1 to 2 years for this system to be wired. During this time, talking, music, and movement provide the child with context to their physical experience of sound.
A way to further this context is to share your world with your child by wearing your baby. There is a positive effect of upright posture on alertness and vestibular stimulation. Baby wearing with baby facing the mother and then with toddler on mother's hip, allows for the peaceful alertness that encourages the brain to grow. Attachment parenting supports these biological imperatives. www.babywearinginternational.org is also a good resource.
MusicTogether also enhances the vestibular system by exposing the baby to simple melodies, sung by the primary caretaker, while seated in their lap. Watching the primary caretaker's mouth move, expression, and song wires together the complex system for language and meaning. www.musictogether.net for a Music Together class in the tri-valley area.
Another meaning maker for young ones: Signing Time! Rachel Coleman's songs are beautiful and still my favorite today! Her 'face to face' presentation allows the 3 year olds to focus on her facial muscles to imitate how it looks, feels, sounds. For example; the videos expand the meaning of 'house' and 'home' with pictures of children in their houses with their families. The word is written on the screen, labeling all this meaning with the symbol we use to represent it! The more meaning that is built in the foundation, the more background knowledge a child has to draw from to make best guesses for themselves. In the cycle of reading, the best guess is checked against a myriad of background information and other clues to make meaning. These videos have a lovely pace to them. There are many children sharing their individual experiences of home and family which in turn deepen young children's knowledge of these concepts. www.signingtime.com
Signing Time is also available on Itunes.
I advise that these videos can not take the place of your one-on-one time for little ones. They cannot find the meaning just looking at a screen. They need your participation, your warmth, observing your face making the sounds, for the word to have meaning. Watch it together! I bet you will start singing the songs and signing to your little one! They will know that you are in on the game of Signing Time and will respond!
The Signing Time episodes I recommend are 30 minutes long and better suited for older toddlers, 24-36 months. Infants cannot take their eyes off of screens flashing lights at them. They are not making meaning even though they look so engaged. They don't understand yet what the flashing images are trying to tell them. They can end up overstimulated and unhappy. Lengthy screen time is not for children under 2. It is better to allow a child to be in a safe space quietly playing. Then they can regulate the input.