There is a lot more to reading aloud to babies than meets the eye.
Besides exposing them to the concept of being with others and books themselves, reading aloud reinforces the sound of words, Tracy O'Neill points out.
"Being in a more formal environment also introduces babies to the concept of a school," she added.
"They learn pre-literacy skills and get familiar with pages and books," Connie Jellison said.
The women, who are associates at Brentwood Library, are known as "Miss Tracy" and "Miss Connie" in the Book Babies program they conduct at the library for ages up to 18 months.
It is held from 10 to 10:45 a.m. every Thursday in the program room at the library, 3501 Brownsville Road.
There is no cost or registration, and nonresident caregivers and their charges are also invited.
"It's never too early to introduce babies to a relationship with words, books and information," Ms. O'Neill said.
The program consists of nursery rhymes, flannel boards, hands-on experiences, song snippets, lap bounces and read-aloud stories such as "Blankie," a colorfully illustrated board book about the relationship between a baby and a blanket.
Caregivers also read in unison to create a chorus sound.
"It teaches youngsters that the value of reading extends beyond baby as everyone else does it," Ms. O'Neill said.
Most activities provide multiple stimulations. Nursery rhymes, for instance, become hands-on experiences as figures cut from felt are attached to flannel boards, such as a cat and a moon for "Hey Diddle Diddle."
For the "I'm a Little Cuckoo Clock" rhyme, caregivers rock the babies back and forth, and lift them on each "cuckoo."
"You can see the babies respond by smiling and wiggling -- you see their excitement," Beth Arnstein said.
The Brentwood woman and library board member brings her 20-month-old son, Luke, every week.
"He is absorbing ... he recites the rhymes at home," she said.
Youngsters often find one another as fascinating as the activities.
"Sometimes they watch another baby's experience and that's how they experience the story," Ms. O'Neill said.
Mrs. Arnstein said Luke looks forward to the program every week.
"He knows it is on Thursday -- on Wednesday he will ask, "Story time?"neigh_south
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: email@example.com.