Babies start to communicate with the world around them from the very moment that they are born. At first they use crying as their main signal: it can mean that they are tired, hungry, or uncomfortable, and though it’s a fairly blunt instrument, it does usually get the point across. By three months they have developed a more sophisticated set of communication tools: they will make eye contact, smile, and coo as well as having a whole range of small signs of unhappiness that they use before they actually start yelling. At this age, many babies will even have a go at ‘chatting’ with you by babbling in conversational turns, which can be very charming. By six months they often start to repeat the same sounds over and over again – “ba” and “ma”, are popular choices, probably because they are easy sounds for humans to produce – and they may even be sitting up unaided, if slightly unsteadily. At around about 12 months their fine motor skills will be improving and they will now be able to attach sounds to objects in a meaningful way. This may well mean that they can say “moo” and “baa” and “miaow” before they can say ‘Mummy” or “Daddy”, but that’s just the way it goes!
What’s clear is that we are preconditioned to communicate and use language, and will do so from a very early age, especially if given lots of encouragement from parents and siblings. Talking to a baby and listening to them as they reply is a wonderful way of helping their speech develop, but sharing books with them is also fantastic too. The great thing about books is that they give both baby and partner reader (be it parent, grandparent or sibling) a script to follow, a set of visual images to which words are attached, and prompts for the baby to talk. After just a few readings of a book, both reader and baby will have learned the book almost by heart, giving the baby both the chance to learn new words and the confidence to join in with the story. Card flaps on the page are particularly great for getting a child involved in the story (because they KNOW what’s under it, and they can show you, and this is wonderful for helping them to feel that they are reading the book to you, not the other way round), as does the prompt to make animal noises, for example.
The Can You Say It Too series was conceived with these early developmental milestones in mind, and can be actively enjoyed by babies from as early as 9 months. Each left-hand page has a question, for example, “Who’s that in the barn?” and each right-hand page has a sturdy board flap, from behind which the ears or tail of an animal is glimpsed. Pulling back the flap reveals the whole animal and, of course, its sound: “It’s friendly cow! Moo! Moo!”. It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s the sort of thing that babies just love to read again and again.
The series is illustrated by the wonderful Sebastien Braun, who has filled the books with charming, child-friendly characters and plenty of detail for little eyes to look out for. Starting with Can You Say It Too? Moo! Moo! and Can You Say It Too? Woof! Woof!, two more titles follow in June (Growl! Growl! and Roar! Roar!) with a further two in 2015 (Quack! Quack! and Twit! Twoo!). With co-editions publishing in the US, Australia and the Netherlands we hope this will be the start of a fantastically successful new series!
Can You Say It Too? Moo! Moo! and Can You Say It Too? Woof! Woof! are out now! You can order Moo! Moo! online here and Woof! Woof! online here.