Reading with my children is one of the things I have always just done. My parents read to me and their parents read to them. Reading to children is something I have always associated with being a parent. However Book Trust’s reading with children report from 2014 has indicated that as many as 14% of parents do not read with their children between 0 – 3 years.
Most of a child’s development happens by age three, with a study by Hondas in 2006 indicating that by age two as much as 75% of a child’s brain development has already occurred and furthermore a study by Feinstein in 2003 suggests that it is possible to predict a person’s outcome based on their development by 22 months. Reading to children from a young age helps increase their concentration and attention span, something that will be hugely beneficial to them by the time they start school. Research has shown that by reading with your child every day from a young age, it will mean that by the time they start school they will be 12 months ahead of their age group and that by reading to them two to three times a week will give them a six month head start by the time they start school.
Reading to children isn’t just beneficial to them academically however, it is also extremely beneficial to them from a social perspective. Reading to children is great for bonding and helps develop the relationship between the caregiver and the child. Reading with children gives them the opportunity to learn how to communicate, meaning they are more likely to express themselves and interact with others in a healthy way.
One sided conversations are always quite difficult and the idea of conversing with a child can be quite daunting, especially when they don’t yet have the capabilities to respond in a vocal way. Reading to them opens up communication channels and opens up topics of discussion, such as asking questions about what is going on in the story.
Books aimed at babies and toddlers tend to have illustrations that are very consistent. For example, in Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Gruffalo’, the mouse is on every page and in Mandy Stanley’s ‘Peep Po, Ollie’s Farm’ there is a blackbird on every page. Asking your child to point things like this out is not only a good way of keeping them engrossed in the story, but is also a great way to interact with them.
Story time can be highly interactive and be used as a tool to encourage pretend play. A great way of doing this is to introduce puppets during story time. For example you could pick a character and then use the puppet to act out what that character does throughout the story. You can even put on voices for different characters, which is a good way of keeping your child’s attention, can make it more enjoyable for your child and if you’re lucky you may even get them to giggle.
Regardless of how you read to your child, the most important thing is to make it fun. It doesn’t even matter if you get to the end of the book, as long as you are having fun and enjoying the experience of reading a book together.
There are several organisations which run programmes that are there to help encourage and support parents and carers to enjoy books with their children from as early as possible. One of these is Book Trust, who encourage reading at a young age by gifting free books in Bookstart packs to children in their first year of life through a health visitor and then again when they are between three and four years of age through a nursery setting.
The programme was founded in 1992 and so far has seen over 10 million children receive 38 million books. Additional needs packs are also available for children who are deaf, visually impaired, blind or who have conditions affecting their fine motor skills. You can find out more about the Bookstart packs here and more about the additional needs packs here.
But Book Trust isn’t the only organisation to help encourage and support parents and carers to enjoy books with their children. The National Literacy Trust have also set up a website ‘Words for Life’, which is dedicated to helping parents understand communication milestones, shares lots of interesting ideas of things to do with their children, which will help develop their skills and has a list of recommended books to read with children at different ages.
* Book Trust have donated some books and a cuddly Bookstart bear which can be won in my giveaways. To enter any of these giveaways all you have to do is follow the rafflecopter links below and complete the entry requirements.
Giveaways have now ended and winners have been chosen
I would like to thank both The National Literacy Trust and Book Trust for their help in researching this feature. Both are absolutely wonderful organisations that are helping children to build brighter futures by enabling them to become more involved in reading.