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"It’s as if a light switch goes off in their head when we read together" An expert's perspective: Natalia Sanders

Kicking off a new series of posts in which I speak to experts in a number of different child development fields, to get their thoughts on early years reading, sharing picture books and the benefits of black and white images.

Our first expert is Natalia Sanders; teacher, mum, blogger, examiner, small business owner and all-round expert juggler! She has some fantastic insights, so have a read.

After working in English language and literacy development and education for a decade, I know that the first connections a child makes between image and word are vital in developing a love of reading and interest in the world around them. The National Literacy Trust reports that around 5.1 million UK adults are ‘functionally illiterate’ and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11 year old; the equivalent of a child in Year 6 at the end of primary school.

As parents, by starting to read high contrast books and images with babies from infancy, we can sew the seed for a love of learning and literature from a young age. High contrast images help to promote vision development by appealing to the rods and cones (the structures in the retina that promote colour) of the eye, whilst unusual common nouns help young children to build a wide vocabulary and understand the world around them. Babies learn through imitation; so to see us reading, and reading to them, is one of the best ways to promote those neurons to zap around their brain and encourage them to want to learn. Rather than decorate our children’s nurseries in pastel shades, babies prefer to look at the contrast between black and white. Not only does the contrast encourage neurological pathways to develop, but research also suggests that the contrast allows babies to relax; by focusing on stark contrast images their brains can switch off from external noises and stimulation that they are surrounded by.

Personally, I love reading The Little Black and White Book Project’s books and flashcards with both my toddler and my young baby; it’s as if a light switch goes off in their head when we read together. Watching their eyes sparkle, as they dash across the page, makes my heart melt. We can’t really ask for more, can we?

Natalia Sanders


Natalia Sanders taught English for 10 years and was as Literacy Coordinator before becoming a Mum in 2016. She says "I mainly taught in secondary schools and Pupil Referral Units where, despite children's chronological age being up to 16, often their reading age/ability was much, much lower so I used resources to try and engage them."

She is now self-employed juggling a number of roles including a GCSE English Language examiner for AQA and a GCSE English Literature examiner For WJEC, launching her own VA business Clear Desk VA, and is part of the Mama Tribe blog team and the MamaME Box blog team. 

Find her blog here 

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