It’s no secret that a love of reading should be cultivated early—and often; but is there a specific type of book that will kindle the fire more strongly?
According to a recent study in the journal Child Development, there is actually a particular kind of book infants get more out of during story time—those that provide labels for characters.
“When parents label people or characters with names, infants learn quite a bit,” explains study co-author Lisa Scott. “Books with individual-level names may lead parents to talk to infants more, which is particularly important for the first year of life.”
For the research project, a group of 6 month olds were assessed using eye-tracking and electroencephalograms to determine the level of the infants’ attention. This was repeated three months later.
The home-part of the project involved the parents reading to the babies 10 minutes every day for the first two weeks, then every second day for another fortnight, and then at a consistently diminishing rate until the babies reached 9 months of age.
Two sets of mums and dads were to read the exact same book to their little ones—identical except that one version had clear, familiar names for each of the characters, while the other grouped all the people into a single made-up category. A control group received no books.
The researchers discovered that those little readers who had the books with specifically-named characters spent longer focusing on images, with their EEG brain activity results showing them cognitively differentiating between story characters.
“There are lots of recommendations about reading books to babies, but our work provides a scientific basis for these recommendations and suggests that the type of book is also important,” says Scott.
The outcome of the study points to how taking the time to impart importance on things can create a memory hook for young ones, bolstering their knowledge of the world around them. It also emphasises the ultimate meaningfulness of a name, an identity—a vital lesson in developing empathy in your child.