Telling tales to toddlers, parents Learning: A countywide library program aimed at infants uses interactive nursery rhymes to help them develop language skills.

October 05, 1997|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Although 9-week-old Kyle Dedmon slept through about half of his first infant story time at the Taneytown library recently, his mother, Angie Dedmon, said she was glad she brought him.

Dedmon and her husband, Don, have been reciting nursery rhymes to their first child since he was born. The story time, which is one of a few countywide geared to children who are not yet crawling or walking, gave Dedmon a chance to expand the family's repertoire.

Dedmon said she hopes exposing Kyle to books at such an early age will help foster a lifelong interest in learning.

Robert Titzer, an assistant professor of kinesiology and health studies at Southeastern Louisiana University who conducts early learning workshops across the country, said Dedmon is on the right track.

"The brain develops faster in infancy than any other time in life," said Titzer, who began teaching his daughter to read as an infant.

Susan Roberts, program manager for the county library system, agrees. Story times for infants appear to help them develop language skills, which is one reason branches around the county began offering them.

In Westminster, the infant story times have proved so popular that branch staff members had to add a weekly session Wednesdays to complement the two Thursday sessions, Roberts said.

Laurie Precht, children's information associate at the Taneytown branch, said story times there are grouped by developmental skills rather than age.

"Separating the babes in arms from the crawlers and walkers makes it much easier to reach each specific group," Precht said.

Alan Bowman, 7 1/2 months, giggled gleefully as Precht led his mom, Beth, and the other mothers through a series of interactive nursery rhymes during a recent story time. Alan waved his arms through a rollicking version of "Johnny Will Ride" and laughed when he tumbled into his mother's lap as part of the routine accompanying "Humpty, Dumpty."

Beth Bowman said she reads regularly to Alan, her fourth child. Although at this age, he "wants to chew the books more than he wants to read them," Bowman said she believes reading can make a difference.

"I read to all my children and they've all done really well in school," she said. "My oldest daughter even skipped a grade."

Bowman, who works with her husband, Steve, on the family dairy farm outside Union Bridge, said Alan likes books about farm animals best. The images Alan sees in the books are reinforced when his mother takes him with her to feed calves, "which he just loves," Bowman said.

Making reading interactive is the best way to help children understand exactly what words mean, said Titzer, the early learning specialist.

"Infants learn better by physically doing the activity," he said. For example, if there is a flower in a book, having a baby smell a real flower when you reach that point reinforces what that image means, he said.

Such multisensory reinforcement had great results for Titzer, who said he taught his daughter to read as an infant using just that method.

Titzer made a videotape of himself holding up flashcards with words on them, sounding out the words, saying them and then performing any corresponding action. For example, if the word was clap, he would clap his hands. His daughter watched the tape for about five months, at home and at her baby-sitter's, he said.

"One day, I put the tape in for her at home and she began watching before I had gotten the sound turned up. She saw the word 'foot' and touched her foot, and then she saw the word 'clap' and clapped her hands; so I knew there had been some initial learning," Titzer said.

"Recognizing written language is the only aspect of learning language that we withhold from children until they're 5 or 6," Titzer said. "Learning to read during their infant and toddler years makes more sense because that's when they're learning the rest of language."

He advocates the use of oversized books -- 1 foot by 2 feet -- featuring large type and only a few words on each page.

Roberts said the infant story times also offer benefits for the adults who attend with their children, encouraging parents to get in the habit of reading to their children.

"And they give new moms and dads a chance to get out of the house and meet other moms and dads who are going through the same thing they are," Roberts said.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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