Bond Between Caregivers and Children
Recent research on brain development has underscored the importance of attachment and positive affect during the early years (Jensen, 1998; Shore, 1997). “Children learn in the context of important relationships” (Shore, 1997, p. 29). When children are securely attached to their caregivers and live in an emotionally warm environment, they are less likely to experience developmental delays than children who feel physically or psychologically threatened. Nurturing early childhood environments also seem to “protect” children from adverse effects of later stressful situations.
It is never too early to begin reading to children. Possibly before birth, but certainly in the first days after birth, infants respond to the sounds of their parents’ voices and often attend to songs or poetry. Some parents may unexpectedly find themselves reading aloud from novels as they hold their newborns and find that the sounds of reading soothe the little ones (Campbell, 1999). These first encounters with language and with trusting relationships build a strong emotional foundation for the young child (Butler, 1998).
Reading aloud to very young children has sometimes been called “lap reading” because adults and older children seem to innately know that sharing books is also a good time for being close. When a baby or young child is nearby, the caregiver can show affection while sharing the sounds and rhythms of language found in good literature. Children who have experienced lap reading again and again come to associate hearing stories with nurturing, cuddling, and being loved. As her mother reads the classic baby book, Pat the Bunny (Kunhardt, 1968), 15-month-old Gabrielle makes a game out of the page where she puts her finger through the mother’s wedding ring. “I pretend to gobble up her finger with my fingers behind the page,” her mother reports. “Jomp, jomp!” she laughs, repeating the game over and over. Later, Gabrielle sits contentedly on her 5-year-old brother’s lap while he identifies objects in a picture book for her.
It seems that language learning has a great deal to do with emotion and the development of relationships. This is seen to perfection in the interaction between parent and baby; eyes locked together, the adult almost physically drawing “verbal” response from the baby, both engulfed by that unique experience of intimate and joyful “connecting” which sets the pattern of relationship between two people. (Butler, 1998, p. 4)
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