The importance of reading aloud to your child

Did you know? By the time babies reach their first birthday they will have learned all the sounds needed to speak their native language. The more stories you read aloud, the more words your child will be exposed to and the better they will be able to talk (See www.kidshealth.org).

Parents are the most important educators in a child’s life – even more so than their teachers –and it’s never too early to start reading together. Reading increases a child’s language and vocabulary and will also improve their grammar. When you read to your child, you are developing their memory. Reading a range of books not only teaches children about different topics, but also creates an awareness and better understanding of the world in which they live.

Pleasant and regular exposure to books is a very important way to introduce young children to reading. Start with books containing only pictures. Choose books with pictures of well-known objects. The value of picture books is that they introduce the child to a symbolic representation of words. Telling stories through pictures is a very important activity in the reading programme. The child realises that a symbol (in this case a semi-abstract symbol) can be used to represent the spoken word. For example, a jagged speech bubble represents someone who is upset and screaming, or some Zzzs represent someone who is tired. The pictures are interpreted by the young child, who uses them to retell the story. They will interpret letters and written words in the same way later on.

Reading daily to young children (starting in infancy) can help with language acquisition and literacy skills. This is because reading to your child in the earliest months stimulates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language and helps build key language, literacy and social skills. For babies, being read to helps develop concentration, listening and imagination. In fact, hearing stories read aloud is a great way to stimulate the imaginations of children of all ages. These cognitive skills ultimately contribute to children’s achievement at school.

“Everything that is Real was Imagined first!”

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Many studies have shown that reading to babies and toddlers gives them a head start and helps prepare them, not only for school, but for later on in their lives. You will find the following message posted on most kindergarten walls and in book shops with good reason: today a reader, tomorrow a leader! Children who enjoy reading not only do better in language and literacy subjects but in all other subjects as well. It’s been proven that if you read just 15 minutes a day, in one year you will have read over 1 000 000 words!

Actively reading with your child will develop their social skills and teach them acceptable ways of behaving in different situations. Children are able to develop moral values: the knowledge of right and wrong. Another great benefit of reading with young children is watching their imaginations grow.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales”

Albert Einstein.

When a child is encouraged to be engaged in a book, they can imagine the characters, the settings and probably even the outcome. You will see the enjoyment and excitement in their eyes when they know what is going to happen on the next page. Remember, reading a book can be a great source of entertainment, especially with so much technology these days competing for your child’s attention. Moreover, with the proven negative effects of screen time on their emotions and attention spans, choosing a book that interests your child and reading it together, or even letting them flip through the pages, is definitely a better option.

What is the value of reading literature aloud to young children?

It is particularly valuable when reading a story to a child to show them the corresponding written text and pictures in the book at the same time. The benefits to this method are:

  • It makes the child eager to learn to read.
  • It enables the child to observe the process of reading and to form an idea of what reading consists of.
  • It allows the child to spontaneously discover the value and function of the written word.

Although any story will help children develop an understanding of the reading process, good stories also make an important contribution to a child’s language, intellectual development and their appreciation of literature. If parents take time to read a story, they should spend time well by reading a good story.

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success, is reading aloud to children” – Marilyn Jager Adams

Always remember that storytelling encourages emergent reading!

When choosing story books, the following tips are essential:

  • Stories with lots of repetition and humour are most suitable, as these two elements help the child to listen, take part and comprehend.
  • The structure of the book must be logical and have a linear time sequence with no flashbacks.
  • The story must have a happy ending.

Tips and ideas to help cultivate a love of reading at home.

Most parents don’t know where to begin when it comes to reading to their children. Here are a few tips to help cultivate a love for reading:

  • Let them hold the book as you read
  • Allow them to turn the pages
  • Invite them to read with you
  • Let them finish the sentences if they feel comfortable when you are reading
  • Point to words as you read so they associate words with reading
  • Model reading in front of your child
  • Go to the library or bookstore
  • Encourage them to read the pictures and talk about them
  • Read the same 2-3 books every day for a week, then switch
  • Read to them daily
  • Designate a “reading time” where the whole family sits down to read
  • Allow them to choose the books
  • Talk about the books after reading them
  • Be excited about reading with your child. It’s contagious!
  • “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” – Emilie Buchwald

10 Reasons to Read to Your Child

  1. This attention lets them know you love them.
  2. Reading to them will encourage them to become readers.
  3. It is fun for both children and parents, as many books have hidden surprises and puzzles.
  4. Reading helps them become lifelong learners. The information and illustrations are entertaining as well as educational, giving children a love of learning.
  5. This is one way of passing on your values to your children.
  6. Reading encourages your child’s imagination to soar.
  7. School and learning will be more satisfying for them, building their self-esteem. Success in life will be easier for them to attain.
  8. For that short time, they will stay clean and quiet :)
  9. Every teacher they encounter will appreciate it.
  10. Your child will thank you!
“We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when there are no phones, when the distractions of the world are put aside.”

Neil Gaiman, The Guardian, October 15, 2013

Reading with your child helps create a bond and there is really nothing better than cuddling up to your little one and reading a book or a bedtime story together. Spending time with one another reading or talking can bring parents closer to their children. Even for parents who work or have busy lives, relaxing with your child and simply enjoying each other’s company while reading can be a great way for both of you to wind down, relax and bond.

At CambriLearn, we are committed to and passionate about getting young children to read and develop a love for books, so we have actively implemented a Learn to Read Programme. We strongly believe this is a great initiative to promote and encourage reading in our young learners!

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is…to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity and that means...finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them READ THEM!”

Neil Gaiman

The Importance of Reading Aloud to your Child - CambriLearn
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