Why is reading so important?
Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.
In fact there’s evidence to suggest that reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.
What difference could I make as a parent?
The short answer is: a lot! Parents are by far the most important educators in a child’s life and it’s never too young for a child to start, even if you’re only reading with your child for a few minutes a day. Before they’re born, babies learn to recognize their parents’ voices. Reading to your baby from the time they’re born gives them the comfort of your voice and increases their exposure to language.
Building vocabulary and understanding
Learning to read is about listening and understanding as well as working out print. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a rich and wide vocabulary. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen, which is vital as they start to read. It’s important for them to understand how stories work as well. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word, they’ll hear new sounds, words and phrases which they can then try out, copying what they have heard.
As children start to learn to read at school, you can play an important role in helping to keep them interested in books, finding out what interests them and helping them to find books that will be engaging and fun for them. Give time to helping them practise reading the books they will bring home from school.
Click on the video below to watch well-loved children’s authors Michaela Morgan and Christopher Edge talk through their tips on how to read with your child.
My child is too young to learn to read yet, but what can I do to set them off in the right direction?
Make sure that your child is familiar with language and books so that they can see how enjoyable reading is. Some of the things you can do include:
- Reading aloud to your child, talking about the words and pictures, and sharing ideas about the book
- Reading yourself: Children who see adults reading, and enjoying reading, are much more likely to want to read themselves.
- Making sure your child is surrounded by books: You don’t need hundreds of books at home, but make regular trips to the library or bookshop, not just to borrow books but to spend time together browsing and learning to make choices. In this way, reading becomes a habit.
Most importantly, talk to your child. Spend time with them, doing simple activities (cooking, making something, building a model). As you talk about what you’re doing, you are helping them to learn new words. Later, when they see words written down, they have already heard them and know what they mean.
Reading at home is the most important way that parents can help their child. Make sure your child has regular reading practice and check they understand what they read. Here are some more tips on helping your child with reading:
- When you read to your child, make the experience interactive – ask questions about the story, the pictures and what they think of the characters.
- As their reading skills grow, gradually let them turn the tables until they’re reading to you.
- Keep an eye out for the themes that catch your child’s imagination at school – and help follow it up with more reading
- When you come across an unusual or funny-sounding word, help your child find out what it means and write it on the fridge door with magnetic letters.
- Reading is a great family activity so everyone can join in!
What Books Should I Choose?
- Reading together should be fun! Pick books that you both enjoy.
- You can share picture books, chapter books, poetry and non-fiction.
There are lots to discover once you find out what interests your child.
- If you are struggling for choice pop along to a bookshop or your local
library and choose books together. Ask friends or teachers for their
Where Should We Read?
- If you’re at home, why not sit closely together somewhere cosy and quiet so you can immerse yourselves in the story.
- Sharing a story together is also great if you’re out and about. You can share books anywhere – on a train, in the park, or while you’re waiting in a long shopping queue!
How Do I Go About It?
- Try using funny voices and making silly noises, especially if you’re reading with little ones! Your child loves the sound of your voice so try not to be embarrassed or shy. Just remember to make it fun and laugh a lot!
- Let your child join in and tell you what’s happening. Ask questions like ‘What’s going to happen next?’ and ‘How do you think she feels about that?’
- Try to relate to your child’s own world and experiences – it’s a great way of starting a conversation.
What Else Could I Do?
- Try telling your own story. Children love old classics like fairy tales or you could rediscover the stories you enjoyed as a child together, or make up your own story.
- As your child gets older encourage them to pick up other books around the house to boost familiarity with ‘grown-up’ language. Suggest a reading list, and encourage your child to write down thoughts on the books they have read.
7 Reasons why reading aloud to your child is so important:
- It’s time spent together. Reading time is time when you’re focusing on no one else and nothing else but them. It’s impossible to read to your child and look at your smartphone or watch TV at the same time. Try and read to each of your children separately before bed. This lets you spend quality time with them individually. It makes for a longer bedtime ritual, but it’s worth it!
- It’s a conversation starter. Books always give us a reason to talk with each other, even if we don’t feel like we have anything to talk about. It keeps communication open.
- It’s a great way to talk about emotional health. You can talk about the things that happen in the stories, how you would feel if they happened to you, and how we might deal with such events the same or differently. Books will help you broach topics that you might not have thought to raise if it weren’t for the subject matter in the story.
- It’s a great way to honour the individuality in your children. Try and read different things to your daughter than to your son. Go to the library and let them pick out books about topics about which they are interested. Through paying attention to what they want to read, you can learn more about what their likes and dislikes are, including what they might want to be when they grow up.
- You can open up new worlds for your kids. Reading allows you to introduce your children to things that their school curriculum just doesn’t have the time or perhaps even the interest to cover. If your child expresses an interest in industrial design, go on a hunt for cool books about the design of cars and about architecture. Dear publishers: Please publish more books for young readers about these things!! We don’t just need stories about zombies and vampires.
- You get a wealth of information on where your children might need help. Through reading aloud to your children you will able to teach them the meaning of words they still don’t understand. They will have better vocabularies. They will have better comprehension skills and understanding of abstract concepts. Reading will allow them to excel not just in language arts, but in all of their subjects.
- It can lead to a lifelong love of reading in your children. If you do it right, by reading like you mean it — which means getting into the story, changing your voice to reflect what is happening and not droning on like you hate what you’re reading — your children will learn to love reading on their own.
Reading is awesome, and even better, it’s accessible to all through our country’s public library system. So please, get out there and read to your babies and, most importantly, don’t quit.