Have you ever lost yourself in the world within a book? Have you ever learned a new word while reading? Have you ever cosied up with a nice warm drink and a book to relax?
As adults, books give us the opportunity to escape our own reality by going on adventures with mythical creatures, learn new things and relish the imagination we once had as a young child.
So what is different for our own children?
A lot of us question ‘What are the benefits of reading to your children?’
Well, there are endless possibilities to discover within the pages of a book, just like there are endless benefits our children will gain from sharing time together to read aloud. From the simple joy we attain to the ability to improve our bedtimes, storybooks provide so much more than we first think.
If you are still ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ about whether reading actually makes a difference, this article is for you.
If you like the idea of reading to your child but don’t know where to begin, this article is for you.
If you are in need of any tip, tricks, ideas and recommendations then…you guessed it… this article is for you!
Even if you are not a reader yourself, I’m sure you’ll find a reason here to give it a go today.
- Literacy Skills
- Brain Training
- Lessons for Life
- Adventure Is Out There
- Sensory Experiences
- Time Together
- Say Goodbye to Bad Bedtimes
- How Do I Encourage Reading?
- What Age Should We Start Reading Books to our Children?
It is quite easy to underestimate the power of reading. You may be thinking, can I not just leave it up to the professionals when my child starts school? Well, honestly, yes you can. But I’m here to change your mind on why you shouldn’t. Books can provide a never-ending amount of fun, all while the child is learning too. Every picture or word on every page is creating big magical things inside their small bodies. If you still don’t believe me, here is some more information…
It is safe to say our children absorb so much information from the world around them. Our little sponges can go from not being able to say a single word to thinking, talking and writing in full sentences, within a matter of years. Now that is pretty impressive. All these ways of communicating with one another, stem from our literacy skills i.e. the language and vocabulary used within our speech and text. So exposing children to language within books, is bound to have a great impact on their own vocabulary. Did you know that children who have parents that read to them on a regular basis know more words by the age of two, than children whose parents do not? It has also been found that children who read at home tend to achieve higher in school. As well as language development, this can then further benefit your child’s social skills, from encouraging them to talk about what they’ve read and about themselves. Reading makes a significant difference to life. You wouldn’t be reading this article today, if you never learned these literacy skills.
Let’s take a moment to think about the difference between watching TV and reading a book. Well, reading is a far more complex process, it takes time and energy. Although, it takes more to read a book than it does to switch on some cartoons, reading books (even if they are just picture books) helps a child’s brain development. For younger children, new brain connections are being built. And for those who are older, reading strengthens the brain connections that are already made. Encouraging independent reading from an early age has been found to improve concentration levels, attention span and children’s memory too.
Also, for every book a child reads, their confidence is also growing and growing. Soon your child will be reading to you (or their teddies), without any help.
Lessons for Life
Some of us are not always fortunate enough to be able to take our children on educational trips around the world. As lovely as it would be to go on holiday every month, a cheaper and easier alternative is books. From picture books to chapter books, all have the ability for children to discover the world around them. You can learn about cultures you’ve never heard of, animals you’ve never seen, places you’ve never been. Books comfort children by giving them the opportunity to relate to the characters and their experiences. It is also certain that positive stories can help children’s emotional development: they start to think about how they would feel if they were the character or in that situation. Books don’t just teach children vocabulary, they also learn lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime.
Adventure is Out There
Or ‘in there’ shall we say? The beauty of children’s books is that there are so many possibilities and the fun is never-ending. As well as all the history and cultural lessons a child is able to experience through books, (especially non-fiction) fairy tales and fiction books explore worlds you have to read to believe. Books are limitless and are known for sparking a child’s imagination and creativity. After reading books, children tend to enjoy using their imagination to make up their own stories about adventures far more amazing than their everyday life. This blossoming imagination can also help in their daily lives to visualise other people, places and things. It is simple, books are magical.
If you still need more convincing, I can assure you this one should help. Babies develop through using their senses: seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting. It is not the best idea to allow our curious kids to touch a prickly bush and it certainly is not easy for our children to experience the noise of a dolphin. This is where books come in. There are a wide variety of books available for children to have the opportunity to experience things they may not be able to in everyday life or even through the TV screen. Interactive books, such as lift-the-flap, touch and feel, or ones that make sounds are perfect for even the youngest of babies. These are also a great way to introduce new words, letters, numbers, colours and shapes. Check out our recommendations below.
Reading aloud to your children is the perfect time to bond with one another. Cuddle up together on the sofa, your cosy reading nook or even in the car. It doesn’t matter where you are, children will enjoy every moment of spending time with the person they love the most. It doesn’t have to be for hours at a time. One or two books is enough. A few minutes a day is enough. By sharing this intimate moment together every day, not only are you showering your child in love and the feeling of security, but you are also creating a more relaxed routine. This has been known for easing the dreaded bedtime bickers.
No More Bad Bedtimes
Tying in nicely with our last bullet point, reading with your children is bound to create easier bedtimes. Having a set routine works wonders for children. Incorporating reading into this also relaxes and reduces stress. It gives us time to sit down, chill out and distract ourselves from our busy lives (which I’m certain, we all need once in a while). The best way to support this is by choosing a calm book, usually one that rhymes and repeats, get comfortable and snuggle together, read in a soft and soothing voice. Stories don’t have to be long-winded, even just 10 minutes will help calm both your children and yourself.
How Do I Encourage Reading?
You may be on board with everything so far, which is great! But you may also be wondering how do I start reading to my children? What if my children prefer to fidget instead of read? What if my child is a reluctant reader? Well here are the answers to all of your important questions.
One of the only disadvantages you may hear about reading is that it is boring. Well, that might be the case for some people. But there are always ways to make reading more fun and inclusive.
Why not try:
- Setting an example by letting your child see you reading too
- Visiting a library and allowing your children to choose their own books.
- Creating a cosy place to read
- Sing nursery rhymes together
- Bringing the story to life: you can talk about it, create activities around it, go on days out, cook recipes.
- Watch the film after reading the book
- Listen to audiobooks
- Have books all over the house: in bedrooms, living rooms, and even in the bathroom (for those who like to take their time or those who are learning how to use the toilet)
- Give your child something to hold while you read to them
While these tips are aimed towards children around toddler age or older, you are still able to read to little ones. The best way to read to babies is little and often, allowing them to hear different words and sounds while you are cuddling together or during a feed is very soothing for them.
On the other hand, these tips can also be used by adults. Reading can be someone’s favourite hobby, but others might hate it. If you don’t enjoy it but still want your child to read, then you can also use these ideas. In particular, audiobooks are a really good place to start as you don’t have to be sitting down and focusing just on the book. You are able to complete housework, exercise, walk or drive somewhere all while listening.
Another key point is to try a few different genres. If your child doesn’t like watching a specific cartoon character, then they probably aren’t going to like reading about the same character. Why not find something that suits their needs and interests. Take a leaf out of their book too and find genres that you find enjoyable. Reading won’t seem so much like a chore when you find a good book that you love. Check out some of our recommendations below for ideas on what books are popular with the different age groups.
What Age Should We Start Reading Books to our Children?
Another huge benefit of reading to your children is that there is no right or wrong time to begin. Babies and young children gain so much from being read to, you can even begin before they are born. Multiple studies starting from 1988 have found babies can recognise a familiar theme tune or song from when they were in the womb. Health care professionals now use these findings to encourage mothers to play music or read to their unborn babies from 18 weeks onwards. Talking and reading to our little ones will help uncover a whole range of vocabulary, way before they begin to learn literacy skills formally. If you haven’t started reading to your child yet, then don’t worry. There are so many books out there for children at different ages and reading stages.
Here are some of our recommendations for younger children to older children:
- Babies – Soft books are perfect for this age, especially ones with little to no words and black and white images
- Baby’s Very First Black & White Little Library (Usborne)
- Animal Soft Cloth Book (Wee Gallery)
- Toddlers – This is the age where children really begin to explore what is around them. For toddlers who like to mouth or touch
everything I would recommend board books that are interactive, colourful, and with simple phrases on each page, like a colour or a shape.
- That’s Not My…Books (Usborne)
- Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown)
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr.)
- Noisy Animals (BK)
- Children – From the ages of 4-8, there is a huge selection of fiction and non-fiction books with various reading levels. As long as the book follows a fun narrative, children will tend to enjoy them.
- The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson)
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
- The Big Book of Bugs (Yuval Zommer)
- Rosa Parks (Little People, Big Dreams)
- Older Children – This is when children become more confident readers and can independently read if you want to. There are early chapter books targeted for this age range with adventurous storylines.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
- Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)
- Horrid Henry (Francesca Simon)
- Ruby the Red Fairy (Rainbow Magic – Daisy Meadow)
These recommendations can be for anyone, not just the specified ages. They can be read out loud or in your head, by a parent or to yourself. They are all fun and with a mix between fiction and non-fiction. You may recognise some of these classic titles from when you were a child as well. Isn’t it sweet that you can share those special moments from your own childhood, with your children too?
I think it is safe to say that reading aloud to your children has way more benefits than you can first imagine. From early literacy and vocabulary skills, to time to spend together and to an explosion of their imaginations, books have the ability to transform the lives of us and our littles. It is a skill that will be needed for the rest of their lives, so why not start early? I am hoping this article has convinced you to read, even if it is one book before bed or for a few minutes a day. Give it a go and you’ll be left wondering why you didn’t start sooner.