Literacy is key to opening up choices in life, which make reading one of the most important skills for a child to learn, says Ryan Spencer, Dymocks Literacy Expert and State Director of the Australian Literacy Educator's Association...
So how can parents play a role in this developmental process? The answer is simple – read to your child every day. Research shows that one in five children starts school in Australia ‘developmentally vulnerable’ in at least one area such as language, cognitive skills or communication. Reading to children acts as a form of early intervention that can help boost a child’s learning power and set them up for success in life.
In the digitally connected world we live in today where our lives are heavily dominated by ‘screens’ and gadgets, books can be easily overlooked by children as a source of entertainment and pleasure. As parents, we must ensure that we share the joys that a great book can bring by celebrating reading every day. By reading aloud to your children from an early age, you can help nurture them into skilled and avid readers.
Here are five more benefits of reading aloud to your children…
Research shows that when young children are frequently read to, their brain areas supporting comprehension and mental imagery are highly engaged. When such triggers are put into motion, it can help children with their development of crucial reading skills, like word recognition and comprehension. After all, successful reading is all about making meaning – making sense of the text, imagery, and context of the book. When reading to your child, if there’s a word they don’t understand, go back and reread it – encourage them to do the same thing. Rereading is a vital skill that children should model in order to become self-sufficient readers and it’s easy for parents to set the example.
Promotes improved vocabulary
Reading plays a crucial role in helping children expand their vocabulary knowledge. Parents can play a part in this learning process by helping children learn new words at home through reading favourite books aloud. To maximise your efforts, always flick through the pages of a book with your child before reading, to point out interesting or new words. Explain what these words mean and where they may have seen them before. Discussing the significance of the word in the story helps to provide context, as well as recognition of the word for the next time they hear or read it. Also, start dropping newly learnt words into daily conversations between you and your child so it’s imprinted in their mind.
Helps builds confidence
Regular reading and being read to builds fluency as well as fostering a healthy relationship between a child and literature. Repetition is key and like anything, the more we practice, the better we get. Children can establish speed and prosody, especially when they are read to by parents who can read fluently, accurately and with expression. To assist in developing fluency, it helps to echo read – that is, when you read a paragraph and then the child repeats what they have heard. Hearing themselves read as you have, helps to build confidence in themselves as well as adopt a love of reading.
Fosters quality family time
Reading together helps your child with their literacy skills but it’s also a great way for you to bond with them over precious, quality time together. Introduce elements of fun to the session, to make the experience more interactive and exciting. Use funny voices for different characters, and alternate facial expressions to bring the story to life. This creates positive energy surrounding reading time and may foster a love for reading and being read to. Turn this reading time into a daily ritual to pave way for effective reading habits in the long run.
Encourages children to read for pleasure
As most parents who are avid readers would agree, there’s nothing like the joy and magic of reading a good book. When you expose your child to books from an early age, it teaches children that reading is a fun and pleasurable activity. To ensure this message is conveyed, parents should celebrate book choice and variety. Read different books to your children and experiment with varying formats. Novelty books with interactive elements like lift-up flaps, tactile elements or pop-up displays are a great way to engage children and overturn the notion that ‘book are boring’.