Roald Dahl once said, “If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” We can’t disagree with the great author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. To read at home with your kids is where their natural love of learning begins. And, it’s simpler than you think to get your kids reading from an early age, and reap the benefits.
The Importance of Reading to Children at Home
Did you know your child learns fastest from birth to age five? How exactly? It’s all down to the importance of reading to children at home in a safe and loving environment. More than just quality time between a parent and child, the years leading up to this age are essential for their brain development where 85% of a child’s brain evolves. During this stage, the crucial brain connections are made, later determining a child’s social, cognitive and academic skills.
These connections are most fundamentally active at this period in a child’s life where parents and caregivers are at the forefront of maximising the child’s academic potential, and a future investment into the child’s career. This may sound a bit much too soon, right? But, there’s a real science behind it. How you read at home with your child is the most effective during their early development and reading for pleasure is where it all starts.
How to Read with Your Child at Home
From birth to age 5 is a child’s earliest stage of development before attending school. It’s the most fun, with multiple worlds in books just waiting to be read with mummy or daddy. Here are our reading at home with your child tips!
Read out Loud and Animate Your Voice
Imagine the narrator and the story being told – this will come across in your tone of voice, adding to the magic of storytime. Reading out loud, characterising your voice and using purposeful gestures to show sounds and actions emphasises the mental and physical development of reading.
Use Different Tones of Voices
Children know their parents’ voices from around 18 weeks. Reading to your child using a range of pitches and tones helps associate how you speak with how your child learns new concepts, like colours, numbers and foods etc. This makes your child feel safe and confident, nurturing the parent and child bond too.
Channel your inner Gruffalo or Big Bad Wolf. Babies and toddlers remember through imitation. Characterise your impersonations with a purpose to help shape your child’s network of neurons where they will come to identify the phonemic sounds with the characters in the book.
You don’t have to read a different book every night – it’s even better if your child discovers a favourite story! Ask your child to choose a book and ask them to read it back to you. This aids their emotional awareness of the stories they choose to read, developing a natural affinity with a book they are reading for pleasure.
Encourage Your Child to Talk About the Book
Ask questions and gesture to illustrations in the book. A simple “Where is..” or “What is this?” prompts the receptors in your child’s brain to intercept the questions being asked and connect the narrative to the pictures, helping them comprehend what’s going on in the story.
Read For At Least 20 Minutes a Day in Total
Split up the time into five to 10-minute bursts. A little really goes a long way here. At this stage, your child is rapidly growing and just 20 minutes a day will help lay the foundations for their natural love of reading.
If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.
Things To Keep In Mind When Reading at Home With Your Child
- Develop, nurture and bring the parent and child relationship closer together, providing fundamental emotional and social awareness.
- Maximise your child’s earliest and most crucial stages of development in the years leading up to age five where 85% of a child’s brain develops.
- Understand the long-term investment and benefits as parents and caregivers to give a child an early start in their academic education.
- Nourish the rapid growth in which the child’s brain develops and help shape the network of neurons for phonemic awareness.
- Explore real-life issues. Using a variety of mediums, not just books but songs, nursery rhymes, poems or any other medium of reading creates digestible contexts children can understand and identify with.
Reading at Home Statistics in Education
It’s never too early to start reading at home with your child to prepare them for all tiers of school. Take a look at the interesting stats from The Department of Education Standards Research Team on reading for pleasure.
- Reading for pleasure is not always cited as the key reason for children reading. Other reasons include skills-based reasons or reasons to do with learning and understanding (Nestle Family Monitor, 2003; Clark and Foster, 2005).
- Another popular reason given is emotional – relating to the way reading makes children feel (Dungworth et al, 2004).
- Some evidence has shown children from Asian backgrounds have more positive attitudes to reading and read more frequently than children from White, mixed or Black backgrounds (Clark and Douglas 2011).
- Comparing against international evidence, children in England report less frequent reading for pleasure outside of school than children in many other countries (Twist et al, 2007)
- Text messages, magazines, websites and emails have been found to be the most common reading choices for young people. Fiction is read outside the class by two-fifths of young people (Clark and Douglas 2011).
- Twice as many children and young people read outside class for fun every day compared with those reading for information (29.9% vs. 16.1%).
- Out of 32,000 children surveyed between the age eight to 18, two in every five children and young people (40.2%) agree reading is cool. 23.2% thought reading was not cool.
- Young people who enjoy reading very much are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all (34.9% vs. 10.7%).
- With the exception of magazines, reading across all formats increased in 2014. Lyrics (50.3%) and technology-based formats such as text messages (72.6%), websites (60.2%) and social networking sites (53.6%) continue to be the most commonly read outside class at least once a month.
- Six in 10 children and young people (61.0%) say that they have a favourite book or story.
What Impact Reading at Home Has on Your Child’s Future
How to read with your child at home has a great impact on your child later on in life. As The Children’s Reading Foundation explains, “Every time you read and talk with your little one, you are building a stronger brain for your rapidly growing child and laying the foundation for a lifelong love of reading.”. This is where storytime, allocated reading intervals and bedtime stories are essential to shape the network of neurons working away as a child’s brain develops, nurturing not only the parent and child’s relationship, but the child’s future learning environment in nursery, senior school and university.
By the time your child enters nursery, their oral and listening vocabulary is approximately 5000 words. When a child enters nursery school, they need basic reading, math, social and emotional skills nurtured through the simple act of storytime. This gives a child multiple positive advantages in the classroom and prevents an achievement gap which may affect their future learning. The Children’s Reading Foundation further explain the repercussions of an achievement gap, where “Students who start kindergarten behind form the largest group of dropouts, and they have less than a 12% chance of attending a four-year university”.
Reading for just 20 minutes a day with your child will provide the early learning skills vital to their success at school and in life. How? Storytime or bedtime reading sparks the network of neurons in a child’s brain by enabling the child to understand phonemic awareness (the different sounds in words). Through the variety of stories and scenarios present in books, children begin to recognise words and create contexts to grasp how words are used in their everyday environment. All from reading at home!
For more tips and in-depth reading, be sure to check out the studies featured throughout the blog.