As a primary school teacher, I am a huge advocate for reading from a very young age. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was buying books. We currently read to T on a daily basis and I even went as far as reading to him in the womb. Crackers? Maybe, but I have my reasons.
Reading to Your Unborn Baby
Reading to your unborn child might sound like a ludicrous thing to do and okay, I wasn’t expecting my baby to emerge as a genius. But, it is believed that talking to your unborn child builds a bond as the baby begins to recognise your voice. What better way to build that bond than to read a story that you love? We would always read the same story, ‘Guess How Much I Love You’, as I absolutely love this book.
Once T was born, I wanted to immerse him in books as much as I could. Most of the books I chose to buy were hard books with lots of pictures and not a lot of text. Many of the books are shortened versions of classic children’s books. This was important to me as I want T to become familiar with the stories he would come across in school. It also meant that T could hold the books without the risk of ripping them.
I started reading to T so young because I want to spark an interest and curiosity for books. There are too many times that I have come across children that have no interest in books and this is very sad and worrying (more about this later). Yes, the baby is not going to be able to read or understand what you are reading to them to begin with but the colour will draw them in.
Once your baby is old enough, they will begin to recognise words you are using, allowing them to build their vocabulary. The pictures will allow them to associate words with pictures and this is so important when children begin to learn to read as they will make connections between the pictures and what they are reading.
Then there’s routine. As parents, we know the importance of having a routine in place and including a book is something to look forward to. Unlike most, we actually read in the morning once we’ve had breakfast and woken up a bit. I made this decision because I find that T becomes more alert when we read (probably my fault as I’m a bit flamboyant with my reading!). However, many parents read to their children as part of their bedtime routine. (Update: We now read before nap time and bedtime!)
Reaching Nursery and School
I really do believe that it is so important to keep promoting reading at home. This includes both listening to your child read and reading to them. Some parents say that they don’t have time and this is fine, I’m not here to preach to you on how to parent your children. However, if you can find 5 minutes to spend with your child – in the car before school, before bed, anywhere! – then this is better than not reading with them at all. Even if it’s not daily, at least the children can see how much you value reading.
One of the key reasons for reading is the development of speech and language. By the time your child goes to school, they will be beginning to learn phonics. Reading allows children to hear the phonemes (the sound) to the graphemes (the letter/s that represent the sound) as you are reading. As they become more confident with reading, they begin to learn new words which they then use in their own vocabulary. This is especially important for their writing. It also builds word recognition which means that children become more confident readers as they begin reading words on sight without the need to decode.
Another way that reading helps writing is by developing a child’s creativity and imagination. The more stories the child hears, the more vast their imagination. We assume that all children have an imagination as they are after all “just children” but their imagination grows from their experiences. No child is going to think up a magical land without actually being exposed to this sort of setting. The more settings a child is exposed to, the better.
Once your child is a confident reader, it doesn’t stop there. Many parents get confused when you share their child’s reading level and it is not as expected. Their child reads difficult books fluently so what’s the problem? A key part of your child’s reading level is comprehension. It is all well and good your child being able to read tricky words but do they actually understand what they’re reading? I can never stress enough to parents to ask their children questions. Or, what I find even more fun, let the child ask you the questions as they will need to know the answer so it’s just as effective! Can they use inference and deduction?
The final and most important reason to read with your child is the bond that it will build. Need I say more?
Once your child is a confident reader then the world is their oyster. They will go away and teach themselves through reading, making them independent learners.