I have been a passionate reader all my life, and I remember being excited by books from a very young age. This love of reading came from my Nanny who was always shared stories with me every time I visited her.
As its World Book Day there's no better time to get your little one's interested in books and develop their love of reading. In this Blog I will share the learning and development benefits of reading to your child, along with tips on how to read to your child and some ideas of other activities to do at home to promote a love of reading.
Why is it beneficial to read to your baby?
Its never too early to start reading to your baby. It has been recognised that it is even beneficial to read to baby when they are still in the womb. It's beneficial to do this early evening as it will help both you and your baby to relax and in turn help you to get a good nights sleep. The aim of this reading is to get your baby used to the tone and pattern of your voice, so that they learn to recognise it and listen to it when they are born. Make sure to read in a gentle and calm tone to help sooth your baby, and you can hold or rub your belly when you do this. Reading for at least 5 minutes per day is a great thing to do to help form the early bond between you and your unborn baby. It does not even have to be a baby book to read, it can be a book that you are reading.
As soon as your baby is born, reading to them daily will help them to identify your voice and will help them to feel at ease. Share a story while holding your baby close, but let them see your face, as this will start off your baby's enjoyment of reading early on, all of this will contribute to their brain development. Black and white picture books or cloth books are perfect as these colours help stimulate the optic nerves and early cognitive development, as evidence shows these are the first colours a baby recognises.
Why is reading to your child beneficial?
A wealth of educational and early childcare research has proven repeatedly that children up to the age of 8 who are read too on a regular basis perform better in all areas of the school curriculum and it helps their learning and development in a positive way.
“Children who have been read to daily tend to score more highly in not only language and literacy, and knowledge and understanding of the world, but also in maths. They even outscore other children, on average, in assessments of their social and emotional, physical and creative development” (Hansen, D. 2010, Institute of Education, University of London).
Reading is a wonderful way to introduce your child to new words and a wider range of vocabulary, which in turn will help the development of their spoken language. Reading is also a wonderful way to spend quality 1-1 time with your child and creates a relaxed environment between you, which also promotes bonding. Reading will also help a child to start to make sense of words, as well as begin to recognise letters and numbers.
Tips and strategies for reading to your child at home
There are lots of things a parent can do at home to promote their child's reading skills:
Have your child sitting at the same level as you so they can see the book as well as your face when you are reading.
Use gestures and non verbal communication to reinforce the words you are reading.
Make reading a special activity by making sure there are no distractions or background noise, do it in a comfy area where your child can be close to you and have a special place to keep your books to show how important they are.
When reading make sure you point out all the features of the cover as well to get them interested in it before you start reading it.
It’s great to read stories with lots of repetition or rhymes in them, as when your child gets older they will join in and you can leave out some words and see if they can fill in the gaps.
Create voices for the characters in the story to help your child to get more engaged.
Show your child how to hold the book correctly, and get them involved by helping to turning the pages and hold the book when the are old enough.
Books with flaps and sound buttons can help to create curiosity and will get your child directly involved in the story.
Repeat and re-read the story as this helps to develop brain connections.
Point to the words in the book with your finger so that your child can follow the direction of the text when you are reading, this will help them learn that you read from left to right.
Its great if you can show your child that you are a reader as well.
Incorporate story time into your daily routine e.g. at a bed time-let your child choose a story at the start of the day ready for bedtime which then gives them something to look forward to through the day.
Pick out interesting words from the book and use them when talking to your child, this will help their understanding and comprehension of the words if you use them in daily conversations.
With Toddlers (generally 2-3 years) point to the pictures connected to the words and ask basic questions e.g. Can you see the Dog?
If your child does not want to sit down for the story, you could encourage them to act it out or do the actions from it e.g. pretend to drive a car.
When older children are listening to a story (generally aged 3-5 years) to develop their language ask open ended questions about the story (e.g. what, where, how, why).
Read different types of books to your child e.g. if they like dinosaurs get a dinosaur fact book.
With older children (generally aged 3-5 years) when the story is finished ask them to tell you what happened. To extend learning you could get them to draw pictures of what happened in the book or get them to act the story out.
Take your child to the Library and let them choose their own books. In Norfolk its free for you child to have their own library card and you can borrow 20 items at a time.
What are the learning and development benefits of reading to your child?
There are many learning benefits of sharing stories and reading with your child, which support the Early Years Foundation Stage EYFS (2014) which is the Government Framework which sets out the standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years. This framework is used by all practitioners working with children in the early years.
Communication and Language Development
Reading support your child’s Communication and Language Development, because it helps to boost your child’s vocabulary. Stories contain lots of repetition which means your child will find it easy to remember the words, repeat them and then join in. That's why children often ask for a book to be read again as soon as it it finished. Stories allow words to be spoken in a structured way, which helps to aid language comprehension and development.
Literacy refers to being able to read and write. Reading promotes your children's literacy skills, as it helps them to link sounds and letters which will also help them to learn to write. When you're reading to your child they are listening to different vocabulary, which will help them to enhance their own language understanding. Also pointing to letters and words in the book when reading, will teach your child that the words have meanings.
Expressive Arts and Design
Reading supports your child's creative development as hearing about different characters, locations and ideas will help their imagination to grow. It will support them to come up with their own ideas, and in turn they will start to tell their own stories in their play.
Other ways to promote your child's interest in reading at home
A creative way to get your child interested in books and reading is by creating a Story Sack-which is a way to bring a book to life with props and follow on connected activities. You can read more about creating Story Sacks here.
Set up a Letter Hunt around the house and in the garden. Write some letters on paper or card and get your child/children to do a hunt around the house looking for objects starting with the same letter on the paper.
Make your own Books
You could make your own picture story book with your child featuring photos of family members or familiar places you like to visit and then add words or simple sentences underneath each photo. Or you could cut images out of magazines and make a book from them.
Providing a book box of different types of books and print e.g. fiction/non fiction, newspaper, magazines, catalogues, food packaging is a great way to get your child interested in looking at different styles and sizes of writing
There are lots of great websites to access online about reading as well:-