New research shows a baby’s babble can indicate whether they’ll grow up to be good readers.
Experts say the finding is important for New Zealand given the country’s reading standards have dropped over the last five years.
“Often people think that their babble means nothing but that's not true,” says Emma Quigan from Talking Matters.
“Babies are born ready to communicate.”
A Florida study listened to babies from nine months and measured the complexity of the babble.
“Sounds like 'pah, bur, meh', all the sounds that you make when you're speaking,” said University of Auckland’s Liz Fairgray.
Their reading was tested six year later, and those who performed best were the ones who babbled as babies.
While only nine infants were tracked, the findings are in line with previous research which proved speech and reading are heavily linked.
“We need to be able to hear the ‘ch’ sound, we need to be able to make the ‘ch’ sound and we then go on and we can read that the letter ‘c’ and the letter ‘h’ joined together can make a ‘ch’ sound... and make a word like chair,” says Ms Fairgray.
Parents need to engage more with their children if New Zealand hopes to turn around the reduction in reading standards over the past five years, experts say.
“It's not like we're anti-technology, but we know children learn best from humans,” said Ms Quigan.
Instead of using devices as babysitters, parents should listen and respond.
“When they babble -‘boo gaa gaa gaa gaa’, that kind of thing - treat it like words and respond to them as if they're saying something,” said Ms Quigan
“It's never too early to start talking to your children, to start reading to your children, and to really engage with them with vocal play,” Ms Fairgray said.