Read With Me – promote attention, social awareness and a love of books

Sharing a book creates a partnership between a young child and their carer that will promote their attention, social awareness and a habit of reading for pleasure. Anne O’Connor shows why…

Orson is sitting on his mother’s knee and together they are looking at a book. Mum points to the pictures and talks about them. Orson points too, and follows mum’s finger as she names things.

When she asks him to find the teddy, he points and then looks at mum to check with her. She praises him with a ‘well done’. Her reaction pleases him and he looks now to dad and grins at him.

Mum draws his attention to the picture of a baby going to bed and talks about how the baby gets a kiss goodnight. Orson gets a kiss too and mum says ‘night night’ to the baby.

Bedtime is a familiar routine to Orson and he is able now to connect with his own past experiences and transfer his knowledge to this new situation. He babbles ‘bye bye’ and he and mum wave goodnight to the baby in the book.


1 Around the age of eight to 12 months, babies develop the fabulous and important skill of pointing, and use it at every opportunity.

Babies now realise they can draw the attention of others to something and use their finger to point in one of two ways:

  • imperative pointing means ‘I want it’
  • declarative pointing means they want you to share their interest in it.

Looking at books together is a great opportunity for practising this latter skill and reinforces for the child the concept of  ‘shared perception’ – that both of you can be looking at the same thing with mutual attention.

This is probably a result of the natural turn-taking that has gone on between the child and carer during their affectionate ‘conversations’ in earlier months. The difference now is that the baby is aware of this joint focus.

This is an important stage of development. It has a bearing on future learning, linked as it is to the ability to ‘pay attention’ and to ‘sustained shared thinking’ (Practice Guidance for the EYFS, p9). But it is also important for social and emotional development, as it connects with the ability to work out what other people might be thinking or feeling and to read expressions.

A baby checking to see the look on their mother’s face as they point to the right picture, or put an object in their mouth, is engaging in ‘social referencing’ – assessing the reaction of the adult to determine their response to a new experience.

2 Early reading involves adult and child in what Marian Whitehead describes as a ‘partnership of mutual pleasure’ (Developing Language and Literacy with Young Children, p74).

Babies and toddlers show their enthusiasm for books and pictures by gazing and smiling, squealing and babbling, grasping and scratching at the pages, bouncing up and down as well as pointing and talking. Soon this involves naming images and joining in with the words and rhymes, lifting the flaps and turning the pages, and ultimately talking about the story and the characters.

What makes it a mutual pleasure, though, is that it happens in a safe and nurturing atmosphere, where the interactions are warm and affectionate and where both adult and child are relaxed and comfortable.

Download full article below  Read With Me

Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World ©

Example fallback content: This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.

Download PDF