Bedtime Stories & Fairytales Part 2: The Importance of Reading to Children
Parents reading with their children is one of the classic images of parenthood – the child in pajamas on their mother or father’s lap, picture book in hand, both smiling ear-to-ear. It turns out that not only is reading to your child one of the most fun ways you can bond together, it’s also incredibly important for their development.
Reading is Essential
“The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” stressed a 1985 report by the US Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Their findings are just as true today as they were 30 years ago.
Reading books out loud stimulates the language functions in a child’s brain, while also encouraging their imagination and helping them gain a greater understanding of the world around them. It also strengthens the parent-child relationship at an early age, which is itself important for the child to develop emotional and social skills that will help them thrive throughout their lifetime.
In fact, reading is so important that in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an official policy statement on early literacy, calling it “an essential component of primary care pediatric practice.” The guidelines encourage parents to read aloud to children every day, from birth to kindergarten. Every day!
Tips for Making the Most of Storytime
Life with young children can be hectic and the thought of adding another thing into the daily routine can be overwhelming. But the benefits are so rewarding that it’s definitely worth it to make the time to read every day. Don’t be discouraged if a day is skipped or if the routine gets thrown off for a short time – tomorrow is always another day!
Here are some tips to help make reading part of your everyday routine.
- Use More than Just Words
- Make a Routine
- Connect the Story to the Real World
The importance of reading to children goes beyond just the act of saying the words on the page out loud. The sound and rhythm of speech is the first thing babies will respond to, and as they hear more and more they will begin to understand the meaning of the sounds. Intonation and musicality are keys to how children interpret language.
You can also use your tone and facial expressions to help bring the story to life, especially for older children. Be silly by using a different voice for each character!
Because it’s so important to read out loud to a child every day, try to make reading a routine. Make the bedtime story an expected part of a bedtime routine – just like brushing teeth, putting on pajamas or anything else.
Build enough time into this routine to read to a child for as long as they will engage. Young children may lose interest in a story after only a few minutes, but older children could be engaged for 10 or 15 minutes – and every minute is valuable! If necessary, move other parts of the routine earlier in order to be able to maximize this time with your child.
Try using the actions of the story to lead into a simple discussion about the child’s real-life experiences –facts about nature, relationships between characters or even a shared interest or hobby. Ask your child questions about their favorite parts or what they think might happen next.
This kind of engagement makes learning fun and encourages the child to learn further and develop their own reading skills.
Eventually, your child will learn to read on their own. Let them see you regularly reading, and encourage them to explore books that are slightly past their comfort zone. Talk about what you’ve read and ask them questions about what they are reading. This will help them make reading not just another school subject, but a life-long habit.