The Original French Version HERE - The English version has been translated by Jon-Michael McLean
Not so long ago, the idea of proposing books to babies seemed quite odd. Today, the sector of books for little ones is the most flourishing of all literature for youth. If, in fact, there is still a lot to be done, the production nevertheless offers great quality in a wide range of styles.
Today everyone knows, « books are good for children » (to cite the title of the work of reference by the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst specialized in cultural awakening of little ones, Marie Bonaffé). The materiality of books, what they reveal about the meaning of reading, colours and forms, the distinction between figures or characters in the background, all these elements are absolutely indispensable for the development of very young children.
From the age of four or five months, the faculty of discernment of contrast or scope of field of vision having already been established and the optical system structured, we can really read with little ones. And it is always as surprising as it is moving to behold the first time a young baby follows with his or her eyes a character from one double-page to the next. The optical system will still evolve progressively for a long time, and up the age of one, it is above all the range of colours which will take shape. However, getting going with images, in truly reading images, is already possible before that.
These moments of reading will contribute in putting the child’s psychic activity into movement, by offering him or her a safe, enveloping, constructive setting.
As for texts, many parents are still rather restive at the idea of proposing stories to babies under the pretext that « they don’t understand ». Indeed, quite a few albums settle for short, functional statements or utterances in direct relation with the image. As if we absolutely had to hold back until the little ones are capable of pronouncing. Yet, as we know, young children understand quite a bit more than they express. Most importantly, that they not understand the meaning of everything that is said has no importance because babies are, on the other hand, extremely sentitive to the musicality and to the rhythm of the text.
The language of books transmits to the child the idea that there is a language other than the one we use on a daily basis, this factual, contextualized language with which we address children. This other language is precisely that of stories, which will progressively help them assimilate essential notions for their first steps in learning, at the same time as insuring psychic structuring, indispensable in its qualities of linearity, sequencing and linking, structuring and causality. For it is by listening to texts that the child will begin to understand what is written. As Evelio Cabrejo-Parra, psycholinguist, specialist in young children’s construction of language, reminds us : « To explain what is written is impossible, you must have them listen. When we read texts out loud, when I tell a story, I need all the language. When I say « once upon a time », it’s a manner of telling the child, without saying it outright, that there is a time of everyday spoken language and another time as well ».
In fact, not yet everyone is convinced of the importance of reading picture books to babies. Yet, it is indeed from the first months of their existence that little ones will really make the most of the part played by books.