Reading is essential for learning and development but with the distractions of PlayStations, Xboxs, iPads, toys, TV and peer pressure, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Helping your child enjoy reading is one of the most important things you can do as a parent and it’s well worth the investment of your time and energy.
Children will learn reading skills in school, but often they come to associate reading with work, not pleasure. As a result, they lose their desire to read. And it is that desire – the curiosity and interest – that is the cornerstone to using reading and related skills successfully.
By far the most effective way to encourage your child to love books and reading is
to read aloud to them and the earlier you start, the better. Even a baby of a few months can see pictures, listen to your voice, and turn cardboard pages. Make this time together a special time when you and your child share the pleasure of a story without the distractions of TV or telephones.
You may be surprised to find that a well-written children’s book is often as big a delight to you as it is to the children. And don’t stop taking the time to read aloud once your child has learned to read for themselves. At this stage, encourage your child to read to you some of the time. This shared enjoyment will continue to strengthen your children’s interest and appreciation.
While your child is very small, it’s a good idea to start a home library for him/her, even if it’s just a shelf or two. Be sure to keep some books for little children to handle freely. How you handle books will eventually influence how your children treat them. Children imitate, so if they see that you enjoy reading and treat books gently and with respect, it is likely that they will do the same.
Why reading matters
Much research has been published to support the argument that reading to your child has many benefits for their personal, educational and social development. Here are the five key reasons why reading to your child matters, as outlined by the National Literacy Trust.
- You’ll be helping your child to succeed. Research evidence shows that your involvement in your child’s reading and learning is more important than anything else in helping them to fulfil their potential.
- You’ll be supporting your child’s language and understanding because books contain new words and concepts.
- Books support parent-child bonding in a fun, relaxed way.
- Readers are more confident and as they grow this confidence will mean they have access to greater job opportunities.
- The love of books lasts a lifetime. If children enjoy books from an early age they are likely to continue to enjoy them as they grow up, providing them with a wonderful source of pleasure and escapism.
Fiona Binns, Editor of Bradford Parents On The Go, talks about her experience of reading and her love for books.
A love for reading begins at home
I remember my mum and dad reading endless fairy tales and stories to me as a child. As a five year old I remember them reading the classics like Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with me.
As I got older I remember lying in my bed looking at my beautiful old wardrobe wishing desperately that I too could disappear to meet my favourite characters from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’.
I remember ‘The Famous Five’, the four children, Julian, George, Dick and Anne with their mongrel dog Timmy who together solved mysteries and became tangled up with smugglers and other criminals!
Then the schoolgirls of Malory Towers – Darrell Rivers and her friends Alicia, Betty and Sally. The girls’ boarding school located in picturesque surroundings by the sea in Cornwall.
And finally ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾’ – I not only wept at how screamingly funny it was, I was touched too and moved by its content.
My own worn-out and scribbled in copies of all the above books would have to be some of my most treasured possessions… my own children think they are old and grotty but I know they will one day feel the same way about their current favourites ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘Gangsta Granny’ and ‘The Twits’.