Babies Need Words Every Day

Baby and mother reading a bookVirginia Beach Public Library is committed to helping young children prepare for success in kindergarten. We offer a variety of storytime classes and programs for children from birth to 5 years old, to encourage literacy development through singing, talking, reading and playing. Parents can also sign up their children, birth through 5 years old, for our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten reading program. We also offer tips and resources for parents and caregivers to help kids learn at home.

Here are some suggestions from Kathleen Fogarty, Youth Librarian at VBPL, for how you can incorporate learning into every-day activities.


Do you know that the most natural thing a parent or caregiver can do to soothe a fussy baby is to sing a little lullaby? The world over, in every language, adults assist their exhausted infants and themselves by singing familiar songs. Singing is one of the most fundamental of literacy practices, and it comes from your own heart and from that part of you that gathers words, melodies and memories.

Before children read, they ought to hear singing - lots of it - from the people in their families and in their close circles. Why? Because singing creates more connections and activity in the brain than just about any other activity. A child hears a song and adjusts his or her heartbeat and breathing to the rhythm of a song, and hears small parts of words in the lyrics. This is why we teach the alphabet in a song, and why so many cultural gifts are delivered to children in songs.  Here are some ways you can assist your child in growing some literacy roots with song:

  • Sing songs you love, and songs that were sung to you as a child
  • Check out Music CDs from the children's area in the library; you're likely to find some new voices and some fun arrangements of songs.
  • Sing while you change a diaper, do a chore, ride in the car, give your child a bath. Make singing an everyday activity. You don't need a microphone or a recording studio.
  • Introduce your child to many kinds of voices, so that he or she develops an appreciation for different styles; jazz, classical, folk and bluegrass, young and old singers.
  • Find poems you like and turn them into songs.
  • Make a special song for your child featuring his or her name.

Book Recommendations

The following books feature singing, or are based on songs:

  • If Not for You (2016) One of Bob Dylan's songs is adapted in a sweet storybook focusing on the relationship between a puppy and his parent.  The song was recorded in 1970, but is just as relevant today. Sing the lyrics of this book along as you turn the pages with illustrations by David Walker.
  • If You're Happy and You Know It (2007) Here's a song your child is likely to hear a lot in preschool settings. It's a real feel-good song, and the book features colorful, cozy and playful illustrations of animals expressing their own happiness in actions! Read the book, and act it out as you go along with the singing.
  • Sing With Me (2016) This little book is subtitled "Action Songs Every Child Should Know". Artist Naoko Stoop, who wrote and illustrated the book Red Knit Cap Girl, takes thirteen well-loved rhymes and songs, and brings them to life with charming drawings and suggestions to the reader about ways to bring action to each rhyme. From "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" to "Pat-a-Cake" and more, Stoop has created a timeless treasure for families with little ones.
  • Walking in a Winter Wonderland (2016). Here's a picture book displaying the wonders of winter using the lyrics of the song written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith, as sung by Peggy Lee.  Illustrated by Tim Hopgood, this is a beautiful romp through the oncoming season. Children will associate the illustrations with the lyrics, and when winter comes, voila! There's a song at the ready to sing when it snows.
  • We Are the Dinosaurs (2017) Laurie Berkner is a very popular children's performer and songwriter, and our storytimes often feature her songs. This one is filled with the fun of dinosaurs stomping, marching and eating. It has a repeating chorus that young children and parents find easy to repeat. You may also want to find the song on YouTube or ITunes so you can read the book along with Laurie's voice!
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