Reading has been part of development for as long as we can remember. Whether conscious of it or not, we are constantly reading throughout our day; reading signs, numbers, emails, messages… it’s a skill that becomes second nature to us and seems as though we’ve always known how. But we all started somewhere, and there are countless benefits to regularly reading aloud with your children as early as possible, with a goal of 2-3 books per day.
It lays the foundations for strong literacy and pre-reading skills
Emergent literacy skills begin developing early in children when they start to recognise things like the letters in the alphabet, the structure and flow of books and how they’re read, and the ability to recognise and make the sounds of different words and begin to understand the meaning attached to them.
Regular reading time gives them lots of exposure to different sounds, voices, inflections and helps them to absorb these experiences and begin to understand and develop their literacy skills in preparation for school.
It enhances concentration and exercises the brain
Giving children an interesting story and book to focus on helps them develop important concentration skills they will need when they start their education journey. Although ‘sitting still’ might not be used in the same sentence as ‘toddler’ very often, it’s a great idea to routinely give them the experience of reading a story with you to reinforce the importance of concentrating and stimulating the brain.
It sparks the imagination and helps them develop empathy
When children begin to understand the words being read to them, they can start to paint a picture of the stories in their minds as they listen to different scenes and mentally attach images to them. Reading different stories with characters experiencing hardship or sad emotions can also help children to identify with the characters in the book and become empathetic towards them.
It’s a great bonding exercise
The closeness that comes with reading your little one a story is very special. Taking the time out of an often busy and hectic schedule to routinely read and enjoy a story with each other is a great way of bonding with your children and can be something to look forward to every night.
It’s also a great way of discovering your child’s interests or building on them by reading and showing them books about the things they’ve shown interest in such as cars, fairies, animals… anything they love!
Things you can do during reading to help your child develop
There’s lots of coordination and complex tasks in learning to read, and it can be hard for your child to take everything in at once. There are a few helpful things you can do to make story time more engaging while also helping them to develop the fundamentals of reading:
- Trace your finger along the words you’re reading, helping them to understand the orientation of books and the order words are read (left to right, top to bottom)
- Use different voices for different characters to keep them interesting and engaging
- Pay emphasis to different emotions in words such as expressions of happiness and sadness
- Mix up your reading materials and expose them to different formats such as magazines, non-fiction, educational books etc.
- Explore your local library together to get your hands on some new stories (especially if your child likes you to read the same book five times over!)
- Read as often as you can, day or night, and always have a book on-hand that they can go to at their leisure
- Find what they love and stick to it! If your child loves a certain book, they’ll be enthusiastic and engaged when you’re reading it to them