World Book Day - Reading to your Child

It's World Book Day again. For many parents this is dominated by the shock of having to find/repair/cobble together a costume at short notice. However, underneath the costume choices is a core message that reading is important for kids, and reading aloud to young children is a great way to start a life long love affair with books.

The trouble is that sometimes the last thing you want to do after an evening of tidying up their toys, and getting them fed and washed, is to read your kids a story.

So why is reading to your kids so important, and what are the benefits of doing it?

In the same way that getting involved with the games your kid plays with their toys has benefits, you can split the benefits of reading aloud in to two parts, the practical and the emotional

First the practical.

Reading out loud to children expands their vocabulary knowledge. There are definitely some days when our conversations with our children can be dominated by No, Don’t and Please Stop. When we read out loud to our children we use words and phrases that we would not normally use and this obviously extends the words that our children know and understand. Kids hoover up words and knowledge so when you read a simple dinosaur book to them their fascination with these amazing creatures takes off and so does their understanding of words like Triceratops and Diplodocus which are probably not ones that you use in day to day scenarios!

There are some studies which state that reading out loud to a child can boost their vocabulary by up to 40% as authors use words which are not in common use, or explore worlds which are different to our own.

There is also a lot of research which shows that reading aloud to your kids improves their literacy. There are at least 3 major studies which show that both literacy and numeracy skills increase significantly in children who are read to three to five times a week.

Getting technical, researchers studied preschool children who are frequently read to, and noticed that the brain areas supporting comprehension and mental imagery are highly engaged during the reading of the story. Studies show that this helps with the development of reading skills, such as word recognition, when they start to learn to read.

That’s obviously great as we all want to help our kids as much as we can but to me improving their test scores in later life seems a rather uninspiring reason to read to your kids.

I have always thought that there were two very important things about reading to your kids, and one of them is about bringing the fun back in to reading.

Its very easy to go off reading if your experience of it involves sounding out letters and trying to piece sentences together. Reading should be about the stories and imagination and while there is no easy way to get to the point where reading is fluent and easy, having stories read out loud to you is definitely a great way to remind you how much fun reading can be. Reading a story together can bring words alive and make reading less of a chore and more of an adventure.

But for me the most important reason to read to your children was the sheer pleasure of it. Sharing a story, even if it is a very simple one based mainly on pictures is a wonderful experience.

All too soon your child will be growing up and the chance to find distraction free time with them will be limited. They will have to find time to cram friends and homework and all sorts of other things in to their lives and the 10 minutes’ story time at bedtime is squashed out of your daily routine. Cuddling up with a favourite toy (even if it is a dinosaur toy!) and reading a story, sharing that time with them is a short opportunity, but one that will leave lasting memories.


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