Transcript: Why is Reading to an Infant Regularly so Vital to Their Development

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Why is Reading to an Infant Regularly so Vital to Their Development and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: As a young child, I was read to from a very early age. I’m a big believer in getting into a regular routine of reading to children as soon as possible after they are born. This benefits their future development in many ways, and I’ve discussed this in a number of episodes with some wonderful guests.

I’ll include links to some of these episodes in the show notes. Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful woman on Instagram whose handle is Nanny Miss Monique. I was intrigued after listening to Miss Monique participate in a live titled ‘It’s Never Too Early To Start Reading To Your Baby’.

Monique and I have a lot in common as we both come from a childcare background. Nanny Miss Monique and I have been in the childcare industry for over 20 years and together, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience relating to early childhood education, learning through pay, and early age reading. I loved Nanny Miss Monique’s passion, and I asked her if I could talk with her on First Time Mums Chat.

I’m sure you’ll find her passion as enthralling as I do. During our chat, I asked her what sort of books she would recommend to a mum with a baby aged from 0 – 6 months.

In this episode, you’ll hear her share tips on reading to your little one, including suggestions on the types of books to read to your little one, suggestions of some specific book titles that she reads to a toddler in her care, and the benefits and the smiles that she got from that toddler. What colours a book should contain for children of this age, and so, so, so much more.

Hi Nanny Miss Monique, and welcome to First Time Mums Chat, I’m delighted to have you here today, and how are you?

Monique DuPree: I’m good, how are you, thank you for having me on.

Helen Thompson: I’m good, as I said before we chatted, I’m looking forward to getting over the Christmas period, because that’s always a hectic time of the year for us nannies, us childcare workers, mums.

Monique DuPree: Yeah absolutely.

Helen Thompson: So you and I are both passionate about reading with children and we both come from a childcare background and you’re a nanny currently. I’m absolutely delighted to have somebody who’s as passionate about reading to young children as you and I are. So thank you for being here to chat to me all about that.

Monique DuPree: I’m so happy to be here to have this chat with you. Thanks.

Helen Thompson: So how did you start, what’s your story about working with kids, being a nanny and being passionate about reading? Tell me about how you got started.

Monique DuPree: Sure, I started working for a family in Washington, D. C. and the mom and dad were two New York Times best selling authors. Every morning before school, I would rush out and get all their newspapers and kind of pile them up like fire wood, that you would have for a fire, but I would put them by the breakfast table and line the newspapers all up.

All the kids and the parents would get their newspapers and then right before school would start they would wait for their driver to come in and they would all cuddle up on the couch together and read books. It always just left a really, really big impression with me as a nanny and then from there I just learned that you should read to your child every day. It’s great bonding for you and your child, and it’s great bonding for nanny and child as well.

Helen Thompson: Also from the child care background, it’s great communication, it develops a language, it develops their vocabulary and as you say, it’s a bonding, but I also think it’s the language and the communication and the touch and the closeness as well.

Monique DuPree: That’s right and if you read to your child every day, five times a day you can get your child to know 1. 5 million words by the time your child reaches kindergarten and I have the stats on that. So if you read to your child about maybe three to five times a day, it’ll be like 169 thousand words that they’ll know, if you read to them.

Yeah this is by kindergarten. Daily reading would result in about 300 thousand words and five books a day would result in about 1. 5 million words by the age of five. So it’s so important to just read to your child every day. Like what you said, communication, vocabulary and overall, just being a great reader, it’s an excellent skill to have to be a strong reader in life.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it’s interesting that you say kindergarten because I was brought up in the UK. I now live in Australia and kindergarten when I was growing up in the UK was three to four. It was like nursery school, before they went to school. I believe in Australia and possibly in America, the kindergarten is the year before school, five and then when you’re six, you go to preschool, pre prep. Is that similar in America or is that slightly different?

Monique DuPree: It’s slightly different. So it’s reversed. It’s preschool before you get to kindergarten and then you go on to first grade, second grade. So you start off in preschool and preschool is like three, four, five.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s similar to what it is in the UK. When we spoke, you had wonderful opportunities and books for moms to get started with and I was going to ask, what sort of books, as a nanny, as a childcare educator, would you recommend to a first time mum with a baby? Let’s say the baby’s 0 – 3 months or 0 – 6 months to make a wider range. What would you recommend for a mum to start? A lot of mums think, oh, I can’t read to my baby, they don’t understand. You and I both know that that’s not true. So what would you suggest?

Monique DuPree: I would suggest starting off with board books and board books that have contrasting colors like black and white, because a lot of babies can’t see color until they’re about four months old. They start seeing color. So any kind of contrasting books but when they do see color and when you are reading something that has like a rhythmic pattern in the words, cause babies love repetition, babies love kind of that rhythmatic way of like when you’re reading to them, something very simple and it might stop you know, what they’re doing and you can grab their attention. So I would start with something simple.

A very good book that I would like to read to babies is a book called Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee. So it’s like for moments of fussy and fond, Spike Lee and his wife, they have a behind the scenes with your child, with all the spills and all the chills and all the things that happen when you’re bringing up a baby. So, the baby goes to bed, but the baby gets up again. You want your baby to eat the peas, but the baby spills the peas and pours the bowl on its head. The baby throws their diaper in the toy bin. No, no. So it’s like all these fun things that the baby thinks is fun, but the parents are like, oh no, oh no and usually I get a laugh out of the child when I read that book. It’s lots of fun.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it’s fun because the child can laugh at what they’re doing and they can laugh at their mistakes and think, oh, okay, the book tells me not to do that.

Monique DuPree: Yeah, yeah, and it’s just very simple text. It says, you know, no, not on your head, please, baby, please don’t do that. So it’s just fun, yeah and another book if you are a mom or a nanny and you want a book about introducing a child to a new sibling, there is a book called The New Small Person by Lauren Child. It’s about a little boy named Elmore Green and he starts life as an only child and then he has his room to himself, he has his own toys, he can do whatever he wants and then he gets a baby brother and he wants to be just like him, but he does not want to share his toys. He realizes in the end of the story that it’s good to have someone there for you, someone who admires you, someone who loves you.

So I love that book because it’s from the perspective of the child and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. If you know, Lauren Child, she’s based in the UK. She has books everywhere from board book all the way up to chapter book for young readers. She’s a great author and illustrator.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s a great one to have for kids because as you say, when you’re a first child, you’ve got to learn these things. You’ve got to learn how to share, you’ve got to learn how to be friendly with your brother and sister and not fight. I think that sounds like a great book.

It’s interesting you mentioned about babies who can’t see black and white until around about 4 months. So if you were reading to a nought to four months, I would recommend a picture book with black and white photos but what would you recommend as a educator nanny for that age 0 – 4.

Monique DuPree: Oh, what kind of books would I recommend? I would definitely recommend contrasting color books. Something very simple that just may have one word on each page. Like ball, a ball and there’s a picture of a black and white ball, or the next page might say rattle and a picture of a rattle and it’s black and white, and a picture of mom and dad, and very simple text, very simple pictures, usually words that are baby’s first words. Baby’s first words are usually beginning with buh, buh, buh, or it’s usually B and D words, the duh sound, or if they’re not saying B’s and D’s, they’re usually saying M’s and P’s. So usually M’s and P’s go together and B’s and D’s go together.

Helen Thompson: And what about books and the bath? What’s your take on that?

Monique DuPree: I think that’s a great idea. If you’re going to do books in a bath, they do have books that are made out of plastic and silicone, and they have these new indestructible books that look like paper, but it’s just recycled paper that has like a wax coating on it, and you can put those in the bath and have your child play with it during the bath time or if you have a secure place for your baby to sit where they won’t topple over, you can sit and read to your child while they’re taking a bath. I think any opportunity is a great time for reading. I read to my nanny child for breakfast every morning while he’s eating his breakfast and in his high chair and he absolutely loves it.

Helen Thompson: How old is your nanny child that you look after?

Monique DuPree: 13 months.

Helen Thompson: So just over a year and does he have any particular favorites that he really likes that you read to him that he asks you again and again for.

Monique DuPree: Absolutely, we love Margaret Wise, Goodnight Moon, that is a classic I believe that everyone likes. He loves when I say the bowl full of mush and he just starts laughing when I say the bowl full of mush. He also loves books where he can see other children. Babies like to see other babies. So when you have pictures of babies in books, they get excited to see other babies. So anytime there’s a book with a baby in it, he gets really excited.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I can understand that because as a toddler, he likes to see other people around him and he’s probably beginning to talk as well. So he can point to the pictures and say ball or whatever it is, or baby or sister or whatever.

Monique DuPree: Yeah and it’s so fun and I always say that your bookshelf should reflect the world around you. So a lot of the books with the babies that we look at, they’re babies from all over the world. So I love, love showing him that and he points to the pictures and he smiles, we talk about emotions and if the baby is sad, baby is frustrated, or if the baby is happy and I, I talk about emotions a lot. We just have a great time.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think talking about emotions at an early age is actually very good because it encourages children to be able to express how they feel, which I think is really important, but not, not pushing them to express how they feel, but showing them the different emotions that there are in the world. Then they learn what those different emotions are. So when they’re frustrated or when they’re sad, they can come to you and show you the picture and say, Nanny Monique, I’m feeling like this today, I’m feeling a bit frustrated today and I think that’s so good.

Monique DuPree: Yes, it’s so important to share emotions and there’s another book that I really love to talk about. It’s called Way Past Mad by Hallee Adelman. It’s about a little girl who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, so she takes it out on everyone. She takes it out on her best friend and the book is her trying to become friends with her best friend again because she hurt his feelings by being mean to him because she was way past mad. So it’s a great book for emotions. It’s the Way Past book series and there’s mad, sad, jealous, lonely, and also Way Past Embarrassed, which just came out recently.

Helen Thompson: I like the sound of that. Those are good. So what do you think of Dr. Seuss books?

Monique DuPree: I believe Dr. Seuss books are great for rhyming. Babies and children love rhyming, and it’s easy to remember when it’s rhyming, right and it’s great for language skills, even if you don’t understand some of the things that Dr. Seuss says, because a lot of the words are made up, but you know, it doesn’t matter. It’s good for them to just hear sounds, it’s good for them to hear sounds and the only way babies are going to talk is if we talk to them and read to them. They have to learn the language. So, I mean, you can read Dr. Seuss sometimes, but I wouldn’t read it all the time because some of the words are not real.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it’s an interesting point about reading to children, but it’s also an interesting point that you said there about talking to babies. I’ve observed in my childcare career that a lot of parents talk baby talk to their child. They don’t communicate to their children like little adults.

They go “ba ba, ga ga ga ga”. They’re not saying the words. So the child isn’t learning those words and I think it’s really good just to talk to your child every day, whether you’re doing both, reading but also talking to them, picking them up in the morning out of bed and saying, Oh, how did you sleep, how are you today and today we’re going to go out to play with your little friend, or I’m going to take you on a date with a friend of mine, we’re going to change your nappy first. You tell your child what the routine is when you get up and give them a big hug and communicate with them as a little adult, because that way they’re learning everyday language, as well as the language that you’re teaching them when you’re reading to them.

Monique DuPree: I totally agree with you. When you’re getting your baby ready to go outside and you’re putting, I don’t know what the weather is like in Australia right now, but It’s very cold here. So it’s winter here in Chicago in the States so it’s very cold, so I bundle up the baby and I let them know we are going outside, we’re going to go to music class and then we’re going to the park and then we’re going to walk to the zoo. Explain those things to your child, it’s just good. You’re communicating with them and you know what? Maybe one day they’re gonna speak to you and say something back you never know.

Helen Thompson: Or they might say, oh, I don’t want to wear those red boots today. They might point to the red boots and say they might want to wear the black ones, or whatever. You’re teaching them that language from a very early age, which I think is good, and incorporating the reading as well, and the reading of the books, I think is also a good one.

I love what you said in the beginning, about the family who sat down and read with their children before they went to school. I think that is awesome and I just feel that parents these days, they don’t have the time, they’re rushing around and rush, rush, rush, and they don’t have the time to put that into the routine. Even doing it in the morning or even at night before they go to bed. Have a bedtime story that you read to the child and you give them that time.

Monique DuPree: Give them that time and for parents and nannies who are in the car all day, may I suggest getting audiobooks for your child and start building your audiobook library instead of listening to music or have the kids fumbling on their tablets or the screens, put on a book and they can listen to a story on the way to school, on the way to the market, on their way to visiting grandmother’s house, gets in the habit of listening to stories, because listening to stories uses the same part of your brain as you are reading. So I think it’s also a good skill to have.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, and it’s also calms them down in the car if they’re frustrated or they’re tired and they don’t want to get in the car or they’re sleepy. Having an audio book can actually calm them and they can feel more soothed and more relaxed in the car as well. So they might even fall asleep if you want them to, not that you want them to fall asleep while they’re listening to a story. It can actually calm them down a little bit as well.

Monique DuPree: It relaxes them, it’s a great way and it’s fun to introduce them to books that way. You know, different voices. It’s not always my voice that they want to hear, they can listen to another person’s voice.

Helen Thompson: And I think the other thing I wanted to mention to you, because I’m passionate about this topic as well, is when you’re reading to a child, try and not be monotone, try and make the characters come to life, and be enthusiastic about the different characters and try and use different voices, because I do that with the kids I work with and they love it. I read older books because they’re seven and eight, but they love the way I do that and if somebody’s sad, I’ll go, you know, make, make this the sad feeling of rubbing my eyes and I even pretend to cry and they love that because I put feeling and actions into the story, and I think they really appreciate that.

Monique DuPree: Oh, yes, I agree with you and there’s a book that was published in Australia. It’s called Barebum Billy. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it?

Helen Thompson: I have.

Monique DuPree: Barebum Billy, such a funny book and it is so rhythmic and you can use voices for that one as well. I love it. So for all the people who are in Australia, make sure you buy Barebum Billy, it’s an awesome book.

Helen Thompson: The other one I like, you mentioned audiobooks before, it’s about a donkey that’s only got one leg. What’s it called? Winky Wanky Donkey.

Monique DuPree: The Wonky Donkey.

Helen Thompson: I love that because it’s got so much expression in it and it’s got so much fun in it and it just makes me laugh. I don’t know who wrote that, but it’s not an Australian book, I think it might be American, I don’t know.

Monique DuPree: I’m not sure either. Actually, I just read that book today. It’s a, you know, stinky, winky, wanky, lean. I don’t know, wonky donkey, it’s so funny and the kids love it and the 13 month old, he loves it too, because I do the sounds. I say hee haw when the donkey says hee haw.

Helen Thompson: Mm hmm sometimes the kids look at you thinking, what the hell is she doing but it’s fun, you see their fun reaction and yeah, I think there are a lot of really good books out there and they don’t have to be really hard books to read.

So I think I’m going to put a few of these books that we’ve mentioned in the show notes for parents, because I think they’re really valuable to have a book list, because I know you have an Instagram page where you read stories to kids.

Monique DuPree: Absolutely.

Helen Thompson: I loved looking at your Instagram page. I thought it was wonderful.

Monique DuPree: Oh thank you so much. Yeah. I’m on Instagram at Nanny Miss Monique and also TikTok and Facebook as well. So if you’re interested in learning about books or if you want me to help you find a specific book for your kid based on their interests, I can help you do that.

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Nanny Miss Monique for being here today. I could talk to you forever about this topic because I know how valuable it is for mums, not just for the moms, but for the children as well. So thank you for being here and sharing your passion with me. I can tell how passionate you are about it. Thank you for taking the time to come and join me on this podcast.

Monique DuPree: Thank you for having me on.

Helen Thompson: You can access the episode show notes at My next guest will be Jes Reynolds. After years of battling debilitating autoimmune symptoms and receiving little clarity from countless specialists with conventional medicine, she decided to take control of her own health journey. Jes empowers her clients to become their own healers.

You will hear Jes and I talk about being more aware of morning sickness, and much more.