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The Science Behind the Transitional Literary Phase

As a parent and teacher, I understand the importance of exposing young children to text, even if it means risking a chewed-up, slobbery board book in the process. During my daughters' infancy, we enjoyed reading board books such as Babies First Words, Love You Baby, and Baby Touch & Feel. By eight months old, they were already recognizing the covers and showing excitement whenever we pulled out these favorites for bedtime.

As our children grew to 20+ months, we observed a significant change in their vocabulary development. This was due to the brain's increased synapses and interconnectivity around the age of two, resulting in what is known as "the vocabulary explosion." The “explosion” is in reference to the fact that a child's vocabulary will quadruple between their first and second birthday. Amazing, right!?

This phenomenon led me to wonder: when do board books no longer provide cognitive stimulation? What kind of picture books are the next best step? As a teacher and reading interventionist, I wasn't sure if I had the right answers for myself, let alone for my children.

I remember taking my babies to the public library and scouring through books, searching for text that was cognitively stimulating while still being comprehensible for a two-year-old. Through my hunt, I found that there was a gap in the early literacy market - board books were abundant, and “beginner” picture books were 800+ words, full of challenging vocabulary and extended metaphors that even went over my head at times, but there was little available for the "in-between stage" I found my children in.

It wasn't until my daughters were five and six years old and their vocabulary development, phonemic awareness, and comprehension were taking off that I realized my experiences and frustrations could help other parents and teachers. Ironically, at this same time, I had been writing stories with my daughters "just for fun," so I used what we had already created as the foundation for my first book. I dove into researching brain development, memory, and word retrieval from birth to five years old. Combining my classroom experiences with my extensive research, I wrote, revised, and rewrote until I completed my first book, Finley the Fairy.

Finley the Fairy is rich in rhythmic patterns and rhyme, and follows a mischievous fairy who ventures beyond the forest trees at night and gets into all sorts of fun. In less than 400 words, I developed a memorable character, a familiar setting, and a silly plot to engage readers during what I call "the transitional literary phase."

This transitional literary phase is important for cognitive development and vocabulary expansion. As parents and teachers, we should strive to find books that bridge the gap between board books and beginner picture books. Finley the Fairy is an example of a book that accomplishes this goal, providing cognitive stimulation and comprehensibility for young readers. I cannot wait for you to read it!

Imada T, Zhang Y, Cheour M, et al. Infant speech perception activates Broca’s area: a developmental magnetoencephalography study. NeuroReport. 2006;17(10):957-962.

© Finley the Fairy is a copyrighted children's story. All rights reserved.

Believe in the magic of reading.


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