It’s a parent’s dream that their child is able to read well. Reading is a crucial skill that needs to be developed during the early childhood years. But why is it that reading with your children is so beneficial? Studies have shown that reading aloud to your children can come with many benefits besides simply teaching them how to read. For instance, children often learn how to behave, think and act through the characters they meet in books. Reading with your children also contributes to expanding their vocabulary, in addition to improving their ability to recognize different sounds and letters, as well as enhancing their memory and listening skills.
It’s important to start reading stories aloud to infants and toddlers, regardless of their age, in order to get them accustomed to a wide range of sounds and vocabulary. I loved reading stories to my boys, it helped with the bonding process when they were babies. Stories help children learn the difference between what is ‘real’ and what is not. Studies have shown a 3-year-old whose parents have read to them since birth are markedly less aggressive and hyperactive than peers who have not been exposed to reading.
Reading to your children can have long-term effects. Those same infants and toddlers whose parents read with them on a regular basis continue to have good behavior into their early school years. This translates into better interaction at school, as the children are better able to absorb new material. There are also social and emotional benefits. For instance, children who are exposed to literature from a young age are generally less anxious and better able to express themselves. I love that books allow children a way to express themselves through their own experiences and to share those experiences with those around them.
It is so easy these days to buy affordable kids books or to buy novels online, it might be a bit overwhelming to sort through the weeds in order to decide what a child should read. One thing parents can start by doing is simply asking their child what interests them. Children will usually favor the same book or the same series again and again. I can’t tell you how many times I read ‘Brown Bear Brown Bear’ to my boys, but they loved it. There is nothing wrong with this; in fact, familiar books can be a huge confidence booster, especially when children read aloud. Children can find it discouraging to stumble over new and difficult words. Don’t dismiss a book as too hard, allow your child to be challenged, just continue to help them along the way.
Children’s books are available in many genres and are also designed with different developmental goals in mind. For instance, wordless books are simply sequences of pictures; these require children to focus on the images and to tell stories based on their familiarity with the language of storytelling and narrative flow. Such books are actually very important in teaching children about things like cause and effect, chronology, and helps foster their creativity.
Other types of books parents should keep an eye out for are books designed to teach children how to understand narrative constructs. Here are some types to keep in mind
- books with repetition such as i-spy books
- folktales or nursery rhymes and fables
- spot the difference worldview books
- participation books where children create the story
- feel good books where materials are used to create sensations
- see and do such as asking children to engage in an activity such as clapping or singing
- pop up books with directions
By introducing children to reading at a young age, they are better able to think, behave and act as they grow. Reading opens so many doors, leaving children without bounds. The simple act of picking up a book and taking the time to sit and read with your child as part of your day will gear your children for emotional, psychological and intellectual success well into their futures, even before a child utters his and her first words.