One Hundred First Words

Before my son was born, my mother-in-law was so kind as to arrange a baby shower for me and my little bundle. Friends and family were invited and so many came to celebrate this new life and gave generously. I am still touched and grateful for their gifts, and specifically for the love that they showed me as a soon-to-be-mom. It was a special day, and many of the daily items I still use with my children are from that day and remind me of the sweet memories often.

One of my favorite gifts from that shower is a book called "Baby's First 100 Words". It's a simple book, with pictures of common items like a hairbrush, a tractor, or a puppy. Each photo is accompanied by the name of the object pictured. From his first months, I've reached for this book time and time again. At first, I focused on a few pages of brightly colored basic items, things that would attract his eye. Did you know that babies are nearly blind when they're born? Their vision slowly sharpens over the first few weeks and months of life. Using high contrast images with bright colors or black-and-white contrast can help them tune in to what they're seeing.

As he started reaching for the book and trying to turn the pages, I realized he was trying to show me his preference. He was curious about what else was in the book beyond those colorful pages. My next step was to focus on pages that had items he would recognize in his daily life; things like toothbrush, chair, or clock. But Shep has his own ideas! He'd grab the book from my hands, turn it to pages filled with animals and machines. Soon, he started to point at specific pictures and demand to know what those items were called.

This is when I regretted reaching for the book so often. Ha! In all seriousness, when kids are approaching a mental developmental leap, they often get fixated on a specific task or detail. The thing that they fixate on often helps hone the coming developmental milestone. So, yes, Shep wanted me to name the things he was pointing at. But he very shortly started to repeat the names after me. We went through the book at least five times a day on average. I'm pretty sure I could close my eyes and draw the darn thing from memory, okay? I loved the book; I hated the book.

A few months later, Shep began picking up the book and demanding to hold it while I named things. After that got boring, he handed the book back to me. At some point, he started pointing at and naming the items without my prompting. This was a HUGE moment! Finally, he'd be able to "read" the book of pictures on his own! He'd point at his favorite items: tractor, dog, cat. "Twactuh, dawg, catuh!" But these things were all on different pages, and he'd pick and choose what he wanted to name.

And then, one day, he opened the book to the page full of machines. He methodically pointed at each picture, top to bottom, left to right. "Aiwpwane, twuck, twactuh, bote!" He flew through the eight pictures on the page, and then turned to the next one. My jaw dropped. Was he reading?!?!? Left to right, top to bottom - that's how you read English! It seemed too orderly to be a mistake.

Around the same time, he started pointing at the numbers "1", "2", and "3" when he saw them. We'd practice in the elevator, at the mall, in the grocery store. The first time he ran up to a sign, tapped the number, and proudly exclaimed, "WUN," I cried.

I don't know if it was that book alone that opened up a whole world of literacy and reading for my tot. What I do know is that I'm reading that same book over and over again to my daughter. Fingers crossed she starts pointing out those same "dawgs" to me soon!


What books did you use that helped your kid learn? Did they start repeating those first 100 words before the age of two? Shoot me a picture of your favorite early words book on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3. 

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