Reading is one of the most important activities you can do with your child from a very young age. It encourages speech and language development and helps your child to learn the rules of language as well as providing an opportunity for creating a bond between you and your child.
Reading aloud to children stimulates your imagination and expands their understanding of the sounds of language before they understand the printed words. It allows them to develop a love for the rhythm and melody of language and makes them want to learn to read.
If you take the time to read to your child it sends an important message: reading is worthwhile. Being able to read and being eager to read are important for children when they begin school, as it makes learning easier and teaches the child to be comfortable with words and their meaning.
The impact of reading on your child’s development
Reading to children can have a great impact on their development, particularly from a young age. The act of listening to a story can also help your child learn to concentrate and focus which will help them to use these skills when they attend classes.
Reading picture books with young children allows them to see the pictures while hearing the words and will allow your child to recognise the objects and associate names to them before they learn to say the names themselves. It also helps them to expand their vocabulary and learn speech patterns, and give them a greater understanding of the structure of language.
Listening to or reading stories can also help your child to develop emotions and intelligence, and can prepare you child for school by teaching emotional and social skills necessary for coping in the school environment. The development of emotions also helps your child to connect with you during your reading times, and goes a long way to developing a great bond between the two.
Often your child may request the same book night after night, which can be boring for you as the parent. Persevere and give in to their wishes as the favourite story may speak to their interests and emotional needs. Be patient and introduce them slowly to more stories and they will eventually move on to a new favourite.
Tips on reading to your child
There are some tips which can make sure both you and your child are getting the most out of reading together, but it must be mentioned that any method of reading to a child that you choose to use will have a great effect on your child. There is no wrong way to introduce your child to the written word, so long as you dedicate the time to it and stick with it.
When reading picture books to your younger child, try holding the book so the child can see the pictures and be able to point to the pictures as you name them or talk about them, to help them to recognise the objects before they can name them
It’s also a good idea to point to the words as you read them as this will help to teach your child that words run from left to right and to develop the natural skill of reading. As your child gets older, this will also help them to follow the words as you read and to begin to recognise the words as they see them.
Try bringing nursery rhymes or rhyming books into the mix. These books teach your child that words may rhyme but don’t mean the same thing, as well as providing a rhythm and pace that is easy to slip into – and shows them that reading can be fun.
As your child gets older, ask questions and encourage them to talk about the story to develop their comprehension skills. By talking about the story, and asking questions, your child learns to listen carefully and to follow the story from beginning to end.
Even after your child learns to read, it’s important to read aloud together. Try reading from books that are within their interest level but beyond their reading level, to stretch their understanding and motivate them to improve their skills.
Although it’s often difficult to find the time to read to your child, it is important to do so whenever you can, for however long you can and however you choose to. Taking the time out for your child and yourself will serve you both well, giving you some time to relax and enjoy yourself while giving your child some skills to help them develop and grow.