May was National Family Reading Month, so we think it’s a pertinent time to discuss the importance of reading to children. Children benefit immensely from being read to, not just from the enjoyment that being immersed in language and stories provides, but also because it supports their emotional literacy and cognitive development; that is, their language, literacy and numeracy skills. Here at Choklits Child Care Centre, reading is a prominent feature in our curriculum, and our educators enjoy story time just as much as the children do. Sharing stories, favourite books and beloved characters is a wonderful bonding experience for children, and we love facilitating these interactions.
Creating Shared Creative Spaces and Encouraging Self Expression
Reading to your child, and, as they get older, with your child, is a wonderful activity for families to engage in together. Reading stories is an excellent connection builder and a great opportunity to create shared time and experiences, and encourage the development of creative spaces. Laying the foundation for a supportive and opened-ended creative space encourages children to activate their imagination and provides opportunities for them to engage in their own story telling.
This is a gateway for self-expression, whereby children are able to act out books and transform them into their own stories. Enabling children to identify characters they relate to is an excellent exercise in both learning about themselves and others, and helps them to be able to express their own personalities.
Developing a Love of Reading and a Love of Learning
Another fundamental importance of reading to children is fostering a love of reading and learning. Instilling a love of reading gives children access to infinite world in books, and provides a head start in building self-confidence and independence. Developing this early is incredibly helpful for their future and helps children to make sense of themselves and the world around them.
Building on this last point, reading is also fun! Reading to children is immensely enjoyable for them, and often becomes a keystone part of daily routines, like bedtime stories. This also paves the way for them to eventually be able to engage in reading, an activity they already love, independently, as they become more familiar with words and stories.
Focus and Attention Skills
An aspect of reading to children that is less discussed is the work it does to aid in developing focus and attention skills. Children naturally have shorter attention spans, and their ability to remain focused on a task for a certain period of time grows as they do. Being read to is a particularly helpful way to aid them in developing these essential life skills as it requires little brain power and is a highly engaging activity.
Reading to your child also has the benefit of being highly adaptable, as it can be done individually or in a group. This helps children to transfer the skills they are learning across different environments, strengthening the connections made.
Being read to in a group is a particularly wonderful opening for children to create shared experiences with their peers. It presents vicarious opportunities for them to create meaning and alternate endings which lead to discussions with parents, educators and friends, building on their social awareness and understanding.
The development of emotional literacy is another key benefit of reading to your child. The descriptions and visuals of feelings in books help children to name and interpret emotions and associate physical experiences of different emotions with their own. This aids in the recognition of feelings in others, helping them to understand people more effectively, and be able to communicate and interpret their own feelings with more clarity. Getting to hear about how characters manage, resolve and cope with a variety of emotions and situations can increase children’s tolerance of uncomfortable feelings because they have vicariously experienced their resolution in books. The plot and chain of events stories display is also incredibly helpful in developing children’s understanding of causation; the idea that their actions can have an impact on the outcome of a situation, which is conceptually a tricky idea to grasp.
Cognitive Development - Literacy and Numeracy Skills
Perhaps the most obvious and well-known advantage of reading to children is the impact it has on their cognitive development. Being read to is hugely beneficial for the development of vocabulary, language, literacy and numeracy skills. To put this in perspective, a recent study found that by the age of five, children whose parents read them five books each day had heard 1.4 million more words than children who were not read to (you can read more about their findings here). This gap is a clear indicator of the extent to which being read to supports vocabulary development, which not only aids children in communicating and understanding others, but also aids their early reading skills through familiarity with a greater number of words.
Additionally, being familiar with books aids the development of literacy skills such as recounting and memory, and the frequency at which children are read to has a direct correlation with their early literacy development, as well as a causal effect on their schooling outcomes. According to the Victorian Government Department of education and Early Childhood Development, reading to children 3-5 days a week has the same effect on a child’s reading skills at age 4-5 as being six months older, and reading to them 6-7 days per week has the same effect as being almost one year older. That’s a massive difference! This effect continues to be observed as children get older, with those who were read to more often as children achieving higher in both literacy and numeracy.
In short, reading to children prepares them for school and life, through giving them skills to access the curriculum and understand themselves, others and the world around them. At Choklits Child Care Centre, we love reading to children, and endeavour every day to do our part to instil a love of reading in each and every child in our care.
Did you know we love books so much that we have written our very own? You can find them here, enjoy!