You know it’s strongly recommended that you read to baby—as early as from birth. But with board books and children’s stories galore, how are you supposed to know where to start to make story time as effective as possible? A new Child Development study is suggesting parents look for something very particular when choosing stories for infants: characters with names.
“Books with individual-level names may lead parents to talk to infants more, which is particularly important for the first year of life,” says Lisa Scott, a University of Florida psychology professor and co-author of the study. “"When parents label people or characters with names, infants learn quite a bit.”
To see how individual character names influenced baby’s reading experience, researchers brought them into the lab at 6 months old and again at 9 months old. At both sessions, babies’ eye movements were tracked with electroencephalogram (EEG) methods to gauge how actively they were paying attention. In between sessions, parents were tasked with reading babies one of two sets of books: either a set with individual character names or a set that labeled objects on a more general category level. All books included eight pages featuring an individual image and a two-sentence story.
Compared to the control group and the babies who were read books with category-level labels, the babies who were read books with individual character names spent more time focusing on the images. Plus, their brain activity indicated they were able to differentiate between individual 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," Scott says. "Shared reading is a good way to support development in the first year of life."