Reading is one of the most important skills a child will develop, and one of the most critical to being able to learn and interact with the world later. Children’s reading skills allow them to develop vocabularies, equip them for school and college, help them express their emotions through writing and speech, and allow easier access to develop and follow varied interests and hobbies by reading. One of the chief benefits of reading to children is that it predisposes them to develop the habit as they grow and develop. There are specialists who recommend reading aloud to children from birth or even to the fetus as the benefits of reading to children are many.
Benefits of Reading to Children
While your children may be too young to read on their own, their capacity for learning is vast and can be directed towards development. Reading aloud to children has various benefits:
- By reading aloud to children even before they understand words, children are exposed to different word sounds, inflections of voice and tone, and to new concepts, which creates a readiness to learn. It expands their vocabulary, helps with language development and increases children’s reading skills.
- A child who has been read to from an early age will learn to listen, and will be better prepared for school. As such children also learn to read sooner, they perform well in school.
- Attention span, ability to focus, expression of emotions, and creativity are all developed with parents reading aloud to children. It sends a message that creativity and imagination are important and appreciated in your family.
- Children will learn how to respond to situations, people and concepts that they may not have yet been confronted with through stories.
- Reading aloud to children provides an opportunity for parents and children to spend quality time with each other and creates a bond that is special, as well as becoming a well-loved family tradition.
Parent Tips for Reading Aloud to Children
When reading aloud to children, follow a few simple steps to make the experience better and more educational.
- Choose books with bright colors and pictures for very young children. Even if a child is too young to understand words or a story, looking at pictures will develop eyesight and keep the child’s interest from wandering.
- Use a sing-song tone to preserve interest and to expose children to phonetic sounds and words. Children’s reading skills as well as vocabulary are developed when they hear a word repeatedly and understand its concept.
- While reading aloud to children, using different voices for different characters and making sound effects to match the story fascinates them. Involve them in the story by asking them to make sounds, or to point out characters.
- Read slowly and stop to allow children to examine pictures. Ask questions about pictures on the page, or ask what they think will happen next.
- Make sure that reading time is always quiet and there are no disturbances. The best time for reading aloud to children is usually just before bedtime. It gives children a chance to wind down after the day’s activities, and is less distracting for adults as there are no phone calls or chores to complete. A story before bedtime can be a well-loved part of a child’s bedtime routinefor years to come.
Children have different patterns of behavior. Some only want to look at pictures, some want you to read continuously so as not to break the spell, and some will pick up a story book and “read” to you, by making up their own story based on the pictures. As long as they are creatively challenged, inspired and motivated; all benefits of reading to children, don’t try to change this pattern.
Encouraging Children Reading Skills
Parents who actively attempt to encourage development of children’s reading skills find that it is easier to inculcate the habit of reading independently.
- Take children to a library or book store and allowed to choose books for themselves.
- Create a reading space with place to store books. Children love the idea of their own den or retreat and will go there often.
- Children learn from observation. When parents set an example by reading on their own and appear to enjoy it, children will copy their behavior and read as well. Teach children to respect and love books, and to treat library books as their own.
- Limit television time so that children have spare time in which to read. If a television is on, it is a rare child who will choose to read instead. Other distractions like internet use, video or computer gaming and hand-held gaming devices should be limited as well.
- When children show interest in a hobby or a specific topic, providing them with books to read about it will teach them how reading opens up avenues of learning.
Through reading aloud to children or by letting children explore books on their own, parents can introduce ideas of new countries, cultures and times to children. While these stories are interesting, children also learn to respect and understand differences.
Don’t force children to read during their spare time or they will come to dread it. Don’t list the benefits of reading aloud to children or insist they set aside time. Instead, choose books that are age-appropriate and will interest your child, and keep them within reach. A casual mention of an interesting story without revealing the end usually works best: “I was looking at this book here; it’s a story about pirates who kidnap a little boy…” The natural curiosity of a child will compel them to at least leaf through the book, if not read it. Above all, remember that reading, whether reading aloud to children or children reading on their own, should be fun, not a task to be completed.
- Improving Reading for Children and Teens – Child Development Info
- Reading with Your Child at Home. NSW Public Schools