To read or not to read: Is reading aloud to your child really that important?

Yes it is!

Reading; this one simple activity helps your child’s physical and mental development, intelligence, teaches them a skill they need for success in life, creates lovely relationship building moments and, is fun.  How great is that, in this time poor world one activity allows us to achieve all these things.

My parent’s are avid readers and read to me when I was young and all my life up until Master J was born I was an avid reader and would read several books a week (still would now but time just doesn’t permit me to do this anymore unless you count reading Hairy Maclary several times a day!). So it was very natural for me to read books to Master J as my parents read books to me and honestly until I started My Growing Values I didn’t really think about why reading aloud to your child when they are young is so important I just knew it was a good activity to do that we both enjoy.

Reading aloud to your child is like singing to your child, it is one of those activities that most parents do without really knowing how important it is that we do it (I’ll address how singing helps  development in another blog article down the track). We all know intellectually that reading to your child is ‘good for them’ but, have you ever really thought about why it is good for them? There are hundreds of reasons why reading aloud to your child is important for their development and below I list several of what I think are the most fundamental reasons that I have come across in my research, some you probably already know and others may surprise you. Let me know in the comments below if there were some things that you didn’t know or other reasons that you feel reading aloud to your child is important.

  • Reading to your child from a young age promotes the development of literacy skills. As you read to a child they absorb the rhythm of your speech and begin to perceive individual sounds and understand words.
  • Reading promotes the development of language skills. Children learn much of their speaking skills by listening to adults. Reading to your child gives them the opportunity to understand what speech sounds like and develop phonological awareness (the awareness of the sound structure of words). Phonological awareness is a reliable predictor of later reading ability, children with a greater word-sound awareness are more likely to be able to read successfully.
  • Reading exposes children to different words. Studies have found that the more words young babies are exposed to the greater their vocabulary is when they start talking. Rare words, (words that a child is unlikely to know at a particular age) or unusual words such as “stupendous” are often only used in books. This vocabulary building continues as the child progresses in their reading skills and begins reading by themselves, as they widen their reading repertoire they are continuously exposed to new words that are not commonly used in everyday language.
  • Reading to your child helps them learn how to use a book (bookmechanics). The simple but important rules of reading ie: reading left to right, turning pages from the front to the back have to be learnt. As you read to your child they observe and learn how to do this.
  • Reading aloud helps create a positive association with books and a love of reading. Regularly reading to your child at an early age will get them “hooked on books” and they are more likely to want to read as they grow up. As an additional benefit, establishing a reading habit with your child when they are younger means that they are more likely to sit still and listen to a story when they become an energetic toddler and sometimes we need them to sit still!
  • Reading nourishes the brain and helps it grow (literally). Reading aloud and talking to your child feeds the brain, in the first 3 years of life the brain will be exposed to millions of words. The brain takes this ‘raw data’ and develops and grows neural pathways that link sound and meaning.
  • Reading stimulates multisensory creative development. Reading aloud feeds a child’s natural curiosity and helps develop right brain creativity. When your baby is given the opportunity to engage in listening, viewing, exploring with their mouth, touching and movement activities during reading it engages both the verbal and creative side of the brain. Touch and feel books are great for engaging all of these senses
  • Reading with your child is an expression of love, it is an act of giving that means you care enough to share your time and children appreciate this. Developing and nurturing a strong relationship with your child when they’re young is important – it helps them feel safe and secure.
  • Last but definitely not least reading to your child is fun. I love nothing more than sitting with Master J beside me or on my lap reading a book. He laughs, he points, he frowns, he smiles, he makes noises and you can see he is enjoying himself. To see him walk as fast as he can towards me carrying a book makes my heart sing. So even if there were no other ‘good’ reasons to read to my son I would still do it simply to watch his enjoyment.

These are just a few of the many hundreds of reasons of why reading aloud to your child is important. So next time you are sitting down and reading with your child know that you are doing more than just telling them a story you are starting them on the path for success in life.

Until next time; live, laugh, love and read

Lyndal

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