Mothers have read their babies happy stories for generations in the hope they can grow up to read properly.

But now researchers from a Welsh university have discovered a new way to read to your kids – by throwing in a few humorous asides.

Cardiff University academic Dr Meredith Gattis found that children’s reading ability could be improved by helping children think “beyond the passage” and helped develop their child’s creative thinking skills.

Researchers found that “joke” sentences such as “mummy drinks baby’s bottle” and “the ducks say moo” were prime examples of how reading humour encouraged children to “think beyond the book” more often.

And the Cardiff scientists found parents made more comments about “disbelief” when reading the funnier book, showing toddlers that they did not literally believe the sentences.

The phrases were taken from two spin-off books created by Dr Gattis, along with a scientist from Stirling University, and compared to popular baby book “One Gorgeous Baby”, by Martine Oborne and Ingrid Godon, which contained more conventional “sweet” phrases.

One Lovely Baby” contained “sweet” phrases like “mummy loves baby’s cuddles”, while the funny phrases featured in “One Funny Baby”.

The stories were then read by parents to their toddlers, aged 18 to 26 months old.

“The book depicts various events in a baby’s day, and counts objects from ‘one lovely smile’ up to ‘ten sticky fingers,” Dr Gattis said.

“We found that parents encouraged children to think beyond the book more frequently when reading humorous book content compared to sweet book content.”

The humorous phrases build on previous research which showed children become better readers at school when parents read aloud to them at home, Dr Gattis said, while other studies show that children who live in homes with more books become better readers.

The research also found that the young children responded to the humour – and were more receptive to talking with their parents when their parents showed “disbelief” at the humorous statements.

Dr Gattis added: “Our studies highlighted the extra information children are exposed to when parents read them funny books.

“Reading humorous books provides an important opportunity for parents to develop their child’s creative thinking skills and to introduce them to new and abstract vocabulary.

“They also help them to think of books as connected to their knowledge and experiences. These are valuable experiences that help toddlers to become good readers in the future.”

Clare Bolton, campaign manager for Words for Life, part of the National Literacy Trust, said reading aloud – funny or not – was “soothing” for children and helped brain development.

She said: “Characters, words and sounds discovered through books can be talked about outside of reading time. Books are an important source of new vocabulary.

“Songs and rhymes are especially good for children as the rhythms and repetitive language make it easier for babies to learn language skills.

“Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and helps to build the foundation for language development.

“The majority of brain development occurs in the first three years of a child’s life. Reading to babies and young children, and giving them time to respond, will help make the most of this opportunity.”

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Source: WalesOnline –