Reading to children - does it matter?
A recent study by Nielsen Book Research has found that only half of preschool children are being read to daily, which has dropped by a fifth in the last 5 years. The parents questioned about why said “the struggle to find energy at the end of the day” or “the child’s preference to do other things”. This decrease has correlated with a similar increase in toddlers’ watched online video content daily.
Does this matter?
Pressures on parents have never been greater, so this change is understandable, but it’s important to understand the impact this could have on child development and relationships with parents. Research shows that children who enjoy reading do better at school in all subjects, and time spent reading as a child is one of the main indicators of academic success, even more than IQ.
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector recently described reading as the linchpin of a good education. “Children who can read learn through their own reading. If they can’t read, they can’t grasp other subjects properly. And reading empowers children, giving them independence to discover what most interests them. So, when you make a reader, you give them the world. Investing time early on, whether it’s reading aloud, singing, reciting nursery rhymes or just talking to children as much as possible is so important and makes a real difference. Stories, songs and rhymes spark emotions; they stimulate imaginations and they broaden minds. Helping children to enjoy and join in with them gives them a language for life.”
When children hear more words, it helps to improve their understanding of language, and increases the number and variety of words that they can understand and use. It is never too early to start reading to children, even when they are just babies. Simply talking with babies helps their brains develop and can help children do better at school when they're older.
It sounds simple, but children need to learn what books are and how to use them – turning pages, starting at the front, holding it the right way up, and that the words mean something are all part of “reading” and are simple to show a child just by sharing a book.
Reading books helps a child to develop their imagination, creativity, and empathy with others, as well as encouraging a thirst for knowledge and improving concentration. It’s also a great way to introduce a range of topics and information which children might otherwise not easily absorb, such as how the body works, what are germs, different cultures and countries.
What to do?
Babies don’t need to understand all the words, they just love to listen to your voice, look at the pictures and hold the books. Cuddling up close to look at a book together will help build strong relationships and everyone in the family can join in. Reading picture books presents your baby with a variety of shapes, letters and colours that they will begin to recognize as the months go on.
Reading is something that can be done anywhere, not just at bedtime, if the end of the day is just too busy and tiring – what about in the car, at bedtime, even in the bath! Making reading a part of your regular family routine will teach your child that reading is something to be enjoyed, not a chore that needs to be done for school. That attitude will foster a love of reading that will take them through school and into adulthood.
A simple and free way to introduce books and reading to your child is to visit your local library - the library is a great place to choose books together, get advice about good books to read, join in groups and events like Story Tots, and did you know you can get a library card as soon as a child is born? It’s also important to have books in the home and make them a part of a child’s life – perhaps ask family and friends to mark each birthday with the gift of a book.
At Overton Preschool Playgroup the children listen to stories every day as part of carpet time and books are always available for children to look at and have read to them. Through our book reviews we aim to give readers of the Test Magazine some different ideas of ways to engage children in books, and confidence to make books special for the children in your lives.