Think back to some of your favourite memories from your childhood. Chances are, these memories include times where you cosied up next to a loved one as they read to you from your favourite book. You may not even remember any book titles in particular, but just the warm, loving feelings that you received from this special reading time, and have carried into your adult life. And this feeling is still universal today, with the overwhelming majority of kids saying that they love being read books aloud at home—the main reason being because it is a special time with a loved one. Creating these cherished read-aloud moments with your child allows them to form a positive association with books, both during childhood and well into their adult lives.
Not only is reading aloud an important family bonding method that creates lifelong memories, but it also has multiple proven cognitive benefits for children. "Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emerging literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent”. Reading aloud helps to expand a child’s vocabulary and stimulate language development from a young age. It can also improve a child’s memory, concentration, grammar skills and mathematical capabilities.
These improved cognitive skills are especially beneficial once a child begins their academic journey. By the time they start school, children who have been read aloud to from a young age have been exposed to new ideas and hundreds of uncommon words and phrases. One study found that some children hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their peers by the time they enter school. This constant exposure to the written word improves a child’s writing and listening skills, analytical abilities, reasoning processes, attention span and general knowledge of the world around them. However, regularly reading aloud also has benefits that extend beyond a child’s success at school. Reading aloud is an excellent way to help children deal with stress and anxiety, and can also help ease aggression and hyperactivity. It encourages curiosity and allows for deeper social and emotional development—being exposed to the lives and stories of countless characters stimulates a child’s empathy by sharing in their thoughts and feelings.
Despite the extensive benefits of reading aloud, research has found that, while 84% of parents start reading to their child before they turn six, one in five parents stop reading to their child before age —usually in an effort to promote independent reading. Conversely, of those children whose parents no longer read books aloud at home, more than half did not want their parents to stop. So how can you ensure that you and your child continue to share quality reading aloud time? With National Simultaneous Storytime fast approaching, now is the perfect time to get into the read-aloud habit with your child. Here are some handy tips to help you on your journey:
Read to your child from birth—there is no age limit when it comes to children reaping the benefits of being read to.
Read aloud and keep going—even once your child has become a fluent, independent reader, they can still benefit from (and enjoy!) being read to.
Use audiobooks—we all know that life can get pretty hectic at times, and sometimes you may not always be able to find the time to read to your child as often as you like. Audiobooks are a great way for children.
Rinse and repeat—the idea of reading the same picture book aloud over and over may make your eye twitch, however children learn words through repetition. Hearing the same story multiple times enables them to learn these words by heart.
Choice is key—choice is one of the most important factors when it comes to a child falling in love with reading. Allow your child to select books that they’re interested in hearing aloud.
Don’t be distracted—in the digital age, it’s very easy for both the listener and the reader to get distracted by digital noise, such as tablets, phones and the TV. Choose a comfortable reading space away from technology.
Get excited—showing your child that reading is an enjoyable experience for you will instil from an early age the belief that reading is fun. Change your voice and tone to suit different characters, and use hand and bodily movements to bring the tale to life.
Pictures help—“Illustrations are visual clues that can help kids build their vocabulary and their emotional toolkit.” Pausing to address the pictures in a book when appropriate and discussing with your child what emotions etc. are happening in the scene helps in a child’s emotional development.
Read, read, read—read aloud as often as you can, whenever the opportunity appears, whether you’re waiting in the doctor’s office or reading a recipe while cooking dinner.
Written by: Alesha Evans