Love of reading instilled in infants

By Greg Gelpi

Sara Stephens of Jonesboro began reading to her 14-month-old son Jordan Stephens months ago.

"I was reading to him as an infant," she said. "Now he'll get a book and sit down with me. He really gets into it now."

When she finishes a book he begins to cry, wanting yet another book read.

Sara and Jordan share their love of books with other parents and infants though the Clayton County Library Headquarters' Baby Talk program. In the program babies and parents interact through story time and a series of educational games.

Parents should begin reading to their children as newborns, said Youth Services Librarian Bea Mengel.

"Even though people think (babies) don't know what I'm saying, they can learn the sound," she said. "Even though they may not know what the word is, it gets registered in their brains."

The reading time also allows parents to interact with their children through toys designed to hone motor skills, group singing and reading and one-on-one story time.

"It's partly about the reading and the words, and it's partly about the relationships and that special time," Mengel said.

Margaret Anne Sealock, the mother of 10-month-old Mackenzie, said she enjoys interacting with her daughter.

"She's able to interact with other babies and with me," Margaret Anne Sealock of Forest Park said.

Although she said her daughter enjoys the singing the most, reading to her is instilling a love of books.

"You can't really read one book because she just takes it from you," the mother said. "She likes to look at them. If you have an Elmo book she'll actually smile and talk to it."

The added benefit of reading with infants at such a young age is that it enables parents to recognize any developmental problems their children may have.

"Sometimes it's good to work with babies early to see if they have any sort of special needs," Mengel said.