The Importance of Reading to Children


The Importance of Reading to Children

Children develop a love of stories while in the lap of a parent.

Reading and talking about pictures in books is a beautiful way to connect with your children and is important to foster an early love of literacy.

Babies and small children love the sound of their parents voices as they share with them and it is this sharing that strengthens their bonds of attachment.

Toddlers enjoy books that allow them to make sense of their world and identify with familiar pictures, images and sounds.

Preschool aged children love books that have a predictive pattern or rhyme (such as Mem Fox’s ‘The Green Sheep’ or Janet & Allan Ahlbergs' 'Peepo'). These books build on children’s interests and are beautifully illustrated to attract children’s attentions and engage with them.

Many children also make associations with favourite books and will read (or ask you to read them) over and over again. While you might feel frustrated at reading the same story repeatedly, know that your child is unconsciously communicating their connection with the tale to you and developing his or her love for literacy. This repeat reading is also the beginning stages of reading by rote and later for letter and word recognition. It is an important part of the reading process, and your child will move on to another book when they are ready.

Yes, it's frustrating but you will survive. The fact that I can still recite Julia Donaldson's 'The Gruffalo' word for word 5 years after I last put it down is testament to that.

Research also reveals that it is the closeness that parents share with their child whilst reading to them that leads to a love of reading. It is the attention, care and quality time in which you connect with your child that ignites a child’s interest in books - so even talking about the images in a newspaper or catalogue is valuable!

Reading Tips

  • Talk about how we use books. Show your child how to handle books with care, holding the book the right way up. Look at the cover, read the title, begin from the front and get to the end.

  • Use your library, fetes, second hand shops and markets to get a variety of books.

  • Spend at least 10 wildly happy minutes every single day reading a book to children. From birth!

  • Read at least 3 stories a day. It may be the same story 3 times. The child will learn something new each time.

  • Read with an interesting voice. Listen to your voice - make it loud and soft, fast and slow, and high and low. Do characters - just make sure you remember them or the kids WILL tell you when you're doing it wrong.

  • Read to your child with joy and enjoyment. Real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for your child.

  • Read stories that your child loves over and over and over again.

  • Let your child hear lots of language by talking about the pictures or anything else connected to the book.

  • Look for rhythm, rhyme and repetition in books; young children love it.

  • Play games with the things that you and your child can see on the page, such as letting your child finish rhymes and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours. Remember - it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.

  • As you read, think about your body position, eye contact with your child and how lively your face is.

  • Read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.


Encouragement to Read

But perhaps you feel a little self-conscious reading to your child? Maybe you have limited English language skills? Or maybe you just want a change from the bedtime book ritual? Here are some suggestions that break away from the standard ‘read a book’ approach to encourage your child’s interest in literacy:

  • Sing nursery rhymes and songs to your child regularly - the rhythmic patterns aid in text predication and will later help your child to ‘crack the code’ of reading.

  • Allow infants to mouth and suck the pages of board books (under parental supervision) as this is their first taste of reading (see what I did there?) and it encourages them to choose and select books.

  • Borrow books with no words such as Jan Ormerod’s ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Moonlight’.

  • Talk to your child about what they think might happen in the story. 

  • Discuss the illustrations and make up your own tales together.

  • Use puppets and toys as props to tell stories.

  • Re-enact favourite books/tales using play dough or other open-ended materials such as leaves, twigs, pebbles, shells etc.

  • Encourage your child to draw regularly. A child’s first marks and scribbles are leading to writing, which is the pre-cursor to reading.

  • Play fine motor games such as puzzles with knobs as they build on the physical skills needed for pencil control.

  • Chalk draw on the pavement and talk about your pictures.

  • Borrow CD stories to listen to while travelling in the car or during quiet rest time.

  • Make and post your own post cards and letters.

  • Collect catalogues and talk about the pictures such as ‘how many green items can we find?’ or ‘find the bananas’.

  • Play games that encourage listening and speaking skills such as “I Spy".

  • Use lots of descriptive language with your child, such as “this shell is white and smooth”. Please note I said descriptive, not 'colourful'.

  • Play with bubbles, slime or other gooey, messy materials. This is great for developing fine motor control and expressive speech.

Did you know that Hugs for Kids is now stocking books at our Beaconsfield store? If you're around, pop in and have a look. It is literally a collection of all of our favourites over the years. 

Happy Reading!


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