The birth of books for babies

10th March 2000 at 00:00
BABY POWER - Maximise Your Baby's Potential Through Books. By Barrie Wade and Maggie Moore. Egmont pound;4.99

Some non-parents think the idea of reading a book to a baby is rather silly, or somehow smacks of hot-housing. And a surprising number of parents feel the same way. This book is part of the campaign to change that attitude.

Authors Barrie Wade and Maggie Moore have been involved in Bookstart, the scheme which will eventually supply every baby with a book, together with instructions for parents'on how to have fun with it, at a health check before the child's first birthday.

Baby Power takes the process a step further, being both a beautifully-presented argument on why reading to infants makes such a difference and the springboard for a series of specially-created books for babies, based on the Bookstart research findings.

It includes some fascinating facts about the benefits of Bookstart. Among these is an impressive 30 per cent improvement in literacy and 25 per cent improvement in maths among its young graduates when they start school.

There are also instructions for novices on the art of reading to a baby - with examples using specific books - and general advice on child development, child-rearing and he use of quality time.

The facts and figures are compelling evidence for anyone unconvinced by the idea and, if this book gets a few more parents reading to their children and, most importantly, enjoying sharing that time with their children, then the exercise will have been worthwhile.

And if it helps change attitudes so that reading with babies is seen as normal an activity as playing with them, then that's even better.

But there are problems with Baby Power, some of which are not of the book's making. The first, and most fundamental, is that it is likely to be found and used by the very parents who would anyway have read to their babies. And catchy title though it is, Baby Power rather reinforces the attraction for parents with hothousing tendencies.

Though the book is attractively laid out, with glorious photographs of babies and parents revelling in books, the text is at times rather more authoritarian, though it does provide some very positive messages about being a good parent.

Every nursery and library should have a copy and, if the Government is serious about raising standards of achievement in schools, then it should ensure that a copy is put into the hands of all new parents as well.

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