There are many interesting pieces of research in the book by Diane McGuinness, Growing a Reader from Birth, Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy. It is probably best to share these with you sequentially, beginning in the stage before the baby is born.
By the third trimester, all the brain connections to the ear are developed. Mothers voice comes to the fetus through her body and is louder than a voice heard from the outside. Because of this and because of the new developments in fetal monitoring, researchers have learned some very interesting things.
In one study, mothers-to-be were asked to read Dr. Seuss’s book, The Cat in the Hat, twice a day, aloud, to their unborn child in the last six weeks of pregnancy. After the baby was born, when the mother read the book to her newborn, the baby sucked more strongly on a pacifier. When she read a different book, one that the infant had not been familiar with during gestation, there was no change in the sucking reflex.
When you or I pay attention to something, our bodies become more still. When that happens, our heart rates slow down. This heart rate phenomenon is well documented. Researchers used this phenomenon to study whether a fetus pays attention to something familiar that mom is saying. The fetus’s heart rate was monitored while the mother-to-be recited a nursery rhyme. After a number of repetitions of the nursery rhyme, the heart rate slowed down. The fetus was paying attention to mom’s nursery rhyme! However, when she recited an unfamiliar rhyme, there was no change in heart rate.
The third study showed that the fetus can actually distinguish between two different syllables. The mother-to-be was asked to say “ba-by” over and over again while the heart rate was monitored. After a short time, the heart rate phenomena occurred and the fetus’s heart rate slowed down. The researchers knew they had baby’s attention. However, after a time, the heart rate went up—the fetus was bored! Then moms were asked to change the order of the syllables to “bee-bay” and immediately the heart rate went down. The fetus could tell the difference in a simple change of the order of the syllables. Amazing!
Twinkletime Rhymes to Print