Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Celebrating World Book Day 2016: The Importance of Reading with your Child

World Book Day 2016 is tomorrow and it always reminds me of being a child, the one day of the year when everyone around me would celebrate and adore books as much as I did. I doubt I ever knew the full influence reading had over me some twenty-odd years ago, but what I did know was that nothing else was ever as exciting or inspiring as reading a book with my parents.

Everyone knows reading to their child is an important part of early development. When working as a babysitter, this was always the highlight of their evening and of mine – watching their faces light up as we brought a story to life together. Sometimes I would read their favourite books, and sometimes they would read aloud the books their school had given them. I’d ask them the next time I saw them how far they’d read and what I had missed in the story, and it’s astonishing how much they’d learn just by reading.

Less people know how important it is to keep reading to your children even as they get older. In a study by Scholastic (“Kids & FamilyReading Report”) it was found that 83% of parents stopped reading to their child before the age of 11, with 75% of those parents saying they’d stopped because their child was old enough to read alone. And yet the same study found that 83% of children as old as 17, loved to be read aloud to. Somewhere along the way, the message is getting lost that reading out loud to your children continues to be beneficial long into their teenage years.

Here’s our shortlist of reasons why reading to your children is so important, whatever their age:

1. Building Awareness of the World Around Them

For younger children, this is about experiences they have not yet had themselves. Books are a tool for you to teach your children how to (and how not to) respond to the encounters they have. For older children this is still very much true – books contain life lessons in a format that is much easier to absorb than a lecture, and reading them together can bring about discussions that are difficult to have otherwise – about culture, social issues, emotions and belief.

2. Academic Advancement

Reading to very young children is one of the most important ways of teaching them to create sentences and critical enunciation skills as well as other necessities, such as how to cope with coming to a word you don’t know how to pronounce (even if you really do).
A strong grasp on language and learning paves the way for a successful formal education. But for older children, it can be just as educational. Children don’t read as well as they listen until they are 14 or 15, and reading higher level books will have them mastering a more sophisticated vocabulary. This can help older children put their thoughts into words in and out of the classroom. Reading aloud teaches reading skills, and children who read well also write and communicate well, and do better in school.

3. Improving Concentration and Expanding the Mind

Whatever their age, learning to concentrate well is going to put them at an educational advantage. Being read to develops a strong sense of self-discipline to stay put for the duration of the story, as well as an improved attention span and memory that will definitely benefit your child (and maybe you too!) Reading aloud can ease your child into genres and series that they never would have considered picking up on their own. Even reading the first chapter out loud can be enough to inspire your child to pick up a book and continue it on their own. Get them hooked on reading and you won’t be able to hold them back.

4. Experiencing the Joy of Being Told a Story

Verbal Storytelling is the oldest and longest standing method of learning, from the earliest records of human civilization. The goal of reading fiction at all is to enjoy it and take what it has to teach to heart. Struggling readers of all ages especially love to listen, as it takes out the frustration of understanding the words themselves. Audiobooks are also fantastic for readers who need that extra push to enjoy stories and in time, they will learn to understand difficult words on their own. But recordings too are missing the one thing that reading aloud to your child will never fail to do…

5. Bringing You and Your Child Together

The physical closeness of reading together is something anyone of any age can enjoy. At any age, reading aloud to your children can provide a sense of security and belonging just from being close to them. Especially as they get older, when the world becomes bigger and more confusing than ever. Children can be so full of energy (and sometimes attitude) that reading time allows everyone to slow down and relax, and continue to relish that closeness you enjoyed when they were a baby. It’s no secret that these moments dwindle the older children get – but the longer you continue to read aloud, the more of this precious time you’ll share together.

Hopefully this has inspired you to pick up a book to read with your child this World Book Day! If you need a little nudge in the right direction, here’s a couple of titles I enjoyed having read to me when I was younger (which I probably never would have picked up on my own!):

  • Boy by Roald Dahl – this is Dahl’s first autobiographical book, telling – in his famous comedic style – the story of his life from birth to leaving school.

  • Northern Lights by Philip Pullman – the story of a parallel universe where a smart young girl and her sentient animal spirit head to the arctic to rescue her uncle and her friend from a treacherous experiment

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – an infamous southern gothic by one of history’s most influential writers (rest her soul) that touches on hard-hitting issues in a gentle and humorous tone

  • Holes by Louis Sachar – a mystery comedy, which is a fantastic sub-genre for young adults – about a boy who is wrongly convicted of stealing shoes and sent to a juvenile camp and made to dig holes all day to find an undisclosed treasure.
This post by Lauren Bowman.

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