The ‘That’s Not My...’ books by Fiona Watt are really fun to start introducing into nighttime routine from a really early stage. We did this with Ada and whilst there might not be a direct link, she really loves her nightly story time and picks up books throughout the day to leaf through herself and even has her own stack of book in the loo that she will happily 'read' to herself. At the age of 4 she has started reading a few words and has a real love for it and seems quite keen to continue to learn to read. We wont know for sure whether reading to her as a small baby has impacted on her ability now, but it won’t have hurt, at the very least. So, as with everything, we’d planned on doing the same with Frida from an early stage.
I think I started around 6 weeks, , stopped for a couple of weeks whilst on holiday then started properly when she was 10 weeks.
At first she’d shout at me and ignore the book as she was so hungry or tired and didn’t give a monkeys about which lamb was hers. But, I persevered and around 12/13 weeks, I noticed more engagement and focus. Her hands wouldn’t pull away as I directed them towards the material on each page and she definitely looked at the book as opposed to resolutely blanking it and / or getting mad at me for delaying the last feed of the day! At four and half months she is now sitting in front of me so I can free up both hands for signing (see below) and reaches out to touch the sensory part of each page we read. She recently seems to be wanting to try and turn the pages, too.
These books have since been recommended by a Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) that we saw when Frida was 13 weeks, who said that by the time we are totally fed up with the books and can't face reading them anymore (I mean there are 64 titles so surely you just buy more, right?) our little ones may be about 80% of the way towards getting something out of them. I would say that Frida is already getting a lot out of them. At the moment, her excitement level whilst we are reading suggests that she is really enjoying them and I am certain that they will be starting to develop pathways for different sounds and speech patterns, giving us a solid platform to help her learn slightly more complex things like phonics and speech when the time comes, which is not , in fact, in the too distant future!
We also get to snuggle close and focus on something quietly, together, and it signals that the next thing is to have her last drink before she goes to sleep. I rarely have a night where I struggle to put her down. It is a good part of establishing a routine for any baby.
Our Makaton teacher suggested the books as a good way to demonstrate the "No / Not" sign. The repetition and use of a 'carrier phrase' is a good way of bringing in different vocabulary. You will also quickly discover that there is a lot of repetition of phrases like 'it's too shiny / fuzzy / furry' etc. I have found that it has been a good chance for me to practice my Makaton. Tonight I looked up and learnt the sign for 'Hedgehog' and as I am repeating it at least 6 times when reading that book, it gets that sign into my knowledge bank nice and quickly too. Hopefully, if I continue to sign at the same time as reading them, Frida will recognise the signs as being part and parcel of the spoken word. Win win!
Adding Makaton into the mix will also help sustain it for the parents, too, and therefore maximizing the potential benefits from the simplicity of reading one short book every night. It wont be long before you can add in searching for the mouse on every page, too! Hurrah!
So it is easy to see why this is such an easy win! It doesn’t take forever and is easily added into a routine. Not only is it a moment of calm engagement before she falls asleep, it helps her developmentally and gives me a chance to practice my signing skills, which will eventually help her learn them - aiding her access to spoken and receptive communication. Every reason, therefore, to continue with them every night, even if I eventually want to throw them off a very high cliff.