Professor Lynne Murray: The Difference that Book Sharing Makes
Professor Lynne Murray, Development Psychologist at University of Reading explores the many benefits that book sharing has on early child development.
I’m Lynne Murray, I’m a Developmental Psychologist based at Reading University in the UK but I also work at two South African Universities and I’m a Director of a charity called The Mikhulu Trust which is all to do with promoting book sharing.
I think there are a lot of things about book sharing that make it particularly good for child development. For example, when people share a book, and particularly a picture book with a child, they tend to use more complex language with the child than they do in other situations and we know that helps the children’s language development. They do things like pointing and naming to the objects and the events and the actions on the page again much more than they do in the hustle and bustle of ordinary day life. And they also use references to things like mental states, like people’s emotions, their desires, their intentions, their different perspectives. Those kinds of words are very useful for children developing what we call ‘theory of mind’ and those words tend to happen much more again with picture books than they do in ordinary conversations.
So, there’s been a lot of research on the benefits of book sharing for children’s development, and most have shown that it really is helpful to children’s language development, but we’ve also found it’s helpful to children’s attention. We’re also just beginning to find that it’s helpful to children’s emotional and social development, helping them to understand more about other people’s needs and experiences.
So, if parents are not used to book sharing, and they’re not quite sure how to get started, a simple rule of thumb is to follow your child’s interest and try and make it enjoyable – don’t use it as a teaching situation that you’re going to drill your child through. But, if you notice what your child’s looking at, and you respond to that and you develop that then your child will enjoy it and the whole process will get going. So - interest, following your child’s cues and enjoyment would be my key things.