What better gift can we give our children than a love of reading? Teaching children to read is one thing; encouraging them to want to read is another. Obviously very young children can’t read themselves, so reading to them each day is such an important first step. Why? It gets them thinking creatively, sets reading up as an enjoyable activity, gives children an appreciation and respect for books, promotes language and vocabulary development, and allows for lots of great family time. Nothing beats a cuddle with your child while you read a book together.
When we read to children we:
Answer children’s questions
Promote language skills
Promote reading skills
Develop longer attention spans
Strengthen family relationships
Even if you don’t have a lot of time, and let’s be honest a lot of us don’t, you can still encourage your child to read by making up stories to go with picture books with no words or attending a regular storytelling time at your local library. Most libraries offer this on a regular basis.
It’s never too early to start!
Children’s brains begin to develop from the moment they emerge from the womb. Newborns respond to bright pictures, the rhythm of words and the comfort of a parent speaking to them. As parents, the voice we use when we read to children is different to our normal speaking voice, which is something they really respond to.
The foundations that determine how clever, creative and imaginative a child will be are largely laid down by the time a child turns one. It’s incredible but true: at this age, most children have learnt all the sounds that make up the spoken language. By the age of two, children have a vocabulary of around 50 words.
Research has shown that language is acquired most rapidly in the first five years of life. What better way to teach language than to read to your children? Reading to your children makes them feel emotionally secure. Teach them to become active participants. Develop their comprehension skills by asking them pertinent questions about the story, asking ‘who, why, where and when’ questions. e.g. “ Who is that?” and “Why did Jack do that?”
Expand their vocabulary by asking them to retell the story in their own words, or tell you about their favourite part in it. They can even make up their own story by only looking at the pictures.
Reading aloud to children will develop their speaking skills and help them to make connections – the look of words, the way they work in sentences, how the word functions. Books can help children to learn to concentrate, to explore their inner feelings, to express themselves and to resolve conflict.
Recent studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between literacy success and success within the wider world. Even self-esteem has been linked to the ability to read and write. Don’t underestimate the power of books.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any children’s books at home, a young baby will love hearing you read from the newspaper or your favourite novel as long as you make it sound good to them. Play up the animation and use your best acting skills – they’ll love it.
Children need 1000 stories read to them before they begin to learn to read for themselves. Sounds like a lot? It’s just three stories a day for a year. Children not only learn about the sounds of language through reading, but also through their exposure to linguistic awareness games, nursery rhymes, and rhythmic activities.
For children whose first language is not English, studies have shown that a strong basis in their first language promotes school achievement in a second language. Children who are learning English as a second language are more likely to become readers and writers of English when they are already familiar with the vocabulary and concepts of their first language (their mother tongue).
For more information see Parenting.