With all the exciting social media inventions of the past few decades, reading has become the ‘Cinderella’ of our children’s daily lives. Books and reading are a vital and necessary tool in the arsenal of a child’s education and shouldn’t be neglected at any cost. Reading opens windows into the imagination, where visions and dreams are nutured, where the impossible becomes possible and creativity is birthed.
There is nothing more enjoyable and more bonding than sharing a book cuddled up with your child. Make it a special, regular habit that children can look forward to everyday. Research shows that reading with your child for 20 minutes a day builds the foundation and scaffolding of future learning.
Reading aloud with our children increases the acquisition of a number of key skills:
- Association: Pictures, colours, shapes and words are associated with the language that we as adults use as we open a book with a young child. As you point to pictures and call them by name your child starts a process of assimilation and association.
- Vocabulary Acquisition starts to grow and is consolidated with references to similar items in the child’s immediate environment Eg. a book on farming and a visit to a farm will give your child an opportunity to place the animals in context.
- Reading from left to Right: Pointing to the text as you read, encourages children to follow, making one to one correspondence with spoken and written words.
- It stimulates the imagination and forces the brain to evaluate what it is hearing and seeing.
- As you read aloud, your tone (changes in pace and expression), the observance of sentence structure, will help your child to pick up grammar and language structure incidentally.
- Stories stimulate interests making children want to find out more on related subjects eg. A story about a horse may peak an interest to find out more about horses.
- To increase fluency, allow them to take turns to read alternate pages aloud.
As they get older, your interest in what they are reading should continue…ask questions; discuss the stories they read; plots; characters; predict outcomes; introduce them to different genre’s; find their ‘hooks’ to ensure they become ‘Hooked on Books!’.
What to read?
Variety is the spice of life. Children will quickly develop ‘favourites’, but do introduce them to both fiction and non-fiction. For children who are visual learners, good comic books or books with lots of illustrations will encourage them to engage with text assisted by pictures.
Many books and stories teach life lessons, such as dealing with loss, bullying, being different, overcoming a disability, loyalty, friendship etc. These books open doors for discussion and can help parents to deal with issues in a non-confrontational way.
Last but not least…be a positive role model! Children follow our example.
Gerda Cunningham (Educational Editor)