Benefits of reading to your children

By Morgan Johnston
One of life’s greatest joys is reading a good book, and if you can get your children to enjoy reading, you’ll be giving them a wonderful gift that will have a huge impact on their life.
Reading is not only crucial for coping with everyday life, but it also plays an important part in helping to develop lots of skills. It’s never too early to start reading to your child – in fact, some people recommend reading aloud to your baby while they are still in the womb.
Apparently unborn babies can hear what’s going on in the outside world from around 24 weeks. Reading to them not only helps to establish a bond between the two of you, but hearing the rhythms found in children’s books may encourage them to read later in life.
There’s also a theory that when the baby hears you reading every day, they will be comforted by the familiar pattern in your voice. When they’re born and you read to them, they will remember and associate your reading with the soothing environment of the womb. It’s thought that this can help calm the baby.
But even if you don’t read to your bump, getting into the habit of reading to them when they’re a baby can have long-lasting effects. Here are some of the benefits:
  • Reading helps children to develop vital language skills, which will aid many aspects of their development
  • Reading to your child helps to build a bond between the two of you.
  • Being read to may help calm a fretful child.
  • Reading improves their attention span and helps them learn to concentrate.
  • It builds listening skills and stimulates the imagination.
  • Reading can teach them about their world – from relationships to good and bad behaviour. It also helps them to learn and expands their knowledge.
  • Once they can read for themselves, it provides a form of entertainment and helps to keep them occupied. It’s much better for them than hours of watching TV.
  • Children whose parents help them with reading when they’re pre-schoolers have better reading ages than those who don’t get any support, according to research.
  • Reading encourages kids to be curious and want to learn.
  • Books can give children the chance to use their critical thinking skills and come up with ways of solving problems.
  • Reading aloud to children enhances the development of their spoken language and encourages them to use proper grammar. It can also help with their ability to express themselves verbally.
  • Books can help children to understand concepts such as cause and effect, and teach them about conflict resolution and accepting responsibility.
  • Reading fosters curiosity and makes them interested in what’s going on around them. It can increase empathy and understanding of humanity and other people’s needs.
By the book
Here are some ideas for reading to your child:
  • Make it an enjoyable experience that gives you both a lot of pleasure. Try not to make it feel like a stressful chore.
  • Get into the habit of reading to them at the same time each day so it becomes part of their routine. Choose a time when you’re both relaxed.
  • Let your child select the book. Make sure they have a range appropriate for their age.
  • Don’t worry if they want the same book over and over – that just shows they get a lot of pleasure out of it. They’ll move on to something else eventually.
  • For small children, have plenty of picture books around that they can look at by themselves whenever they want to.
  • Rather than reading straight through without stopping, help toddlers to get the most of books by talking about each page. Get them to point out objects, repeat words and talk about the story.
  • Ask questions such as, “Why do you think that happened?” and “What do you think will happen next?” to check that they understand what you’ve been reading and encourage them to anticipate the possible outcomes.
  • When reading to younger children, use different voices for characters and make it a fun experience.
  • Have books on hand for them to look at on long car trips (unless they get car sick) and take some to places where they may have to sit around and wait, like a doctor’s appointment.

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