The ability to read is universally recognised as an essential skill in relation to children’s literacy and academic performance and learning to read as a significant step in a child’s educational journey. Parents may feel that teaching reading is the job of their child’s school, which it undoubtedly is, and that they play their part in supporting this by listening to their children read the books sent home by the school. Yet reading is so much more than a skill. It can be a lifelong pleasure – and parents have a huge part to play in instilling a love of reading in their child by reading aloud to them, with many additional benefits.
Creating a parent-child bond
Reading aloud to your child is an opportunity to spend valuable quality time with them. Try to stick to a regular routine as this will provide your child with stability and give them something to look forward to every day. Spending just 15 minutes a day giving your child your full attention will make them feel secure and give them a sense of well being. You will develop shared interests as you re-read favourite books together and develop opinions about favourite characters. Sharing your favourite books from childhood will further enhance the bond between you and give them something to treasure and look back on fondly.
It is never too early to start reading to your child – and never too late to stop. You can share books with babies from as young as 3 months old, sitting them on your lap to share texturised and board books. Keep reading aloud to your child as long as they want you to: revisit old favourites; take it in turns to read alternate chapters; read books that are above your child’s independent reading level to continue to enhance their vocabulary and most definitely read books together that address topics or issues you may not want them to read alone or feel may benefit from adult input.
Developing a love of learning
Reading aloud to, and sharing books with, your child shows them that you value reading, that it is worthwhile and important. Children enjoy the comfort and repetition of revisiting favourite books yet you can also expand their horizons by introducing them to new people, places and events that they would not learn about otherwise. Encourage your child to develop their interests by sharing books on topics that interest them. Learn about things together as you discuss the books you read. By doing this you will instil a thirst for knowledge and teach your child that books are a source of well researched information – especially important in today’s world when it is too easy to really on the click of a mouse or tap on a tablet. Books also encourage a child’s imagination and encourage creativity. By reading to children, you provide them with a deep understanding about their world and fill their brains with background knowledge that they can draw on later. Taking the time to read regularly to your child helps to build a lifelong love of reading for pleasure – and children who read for pleasure tend to do better in a wide range of subjects at school. You are also providing them with an endless form of entertainment and relaxation.
By reading aloud to your child you are aiding their language development as you are continuously introducing them to new vocabulary. Reading a wide range of quality literature will enable them to absorb a sense of language, making them better at using words both in speech and the written form.
Developing cultural understanding
By sharing books from your own culture, such as traditional tales and fables, and in your own language, you will deepen your child’s understanding and appreciation of their heritage, enabling them to make connections with grandparents and other family members. Sharing books set in different cultures and worlds gives children a deeper understanding of the world around them and of cultures different to their own.
Reading aloud to your child, giving them attention and sharing the activity with them will help improve a child’s ability to concentrate. Listening to your voice will encourage them to focus on the words while talking about the story will encourage them to consider the meaning of words. They will learn to sit still and listen, but also to be calm and relaxed.
Reading aloud to your child has many benefits – for both of you. As well as aiding your child’s development and encouraging them to become lifelong readers, by sharing books regularly with your child you give yourself the opportunity to create moments that you may look back at fondly. When you watch them settling down to read a new novel independently you can be proud that you helped steer them on a journey to become an avid reader.