Reading with Your Child

Even before you read a story to a child, when just looking at pictures together, it is important to know what kind of questions to ask. Open-ended questions are essential to allow a child to use their wonderful imagination. Questions starting with where, what, who, how, why will be open-ended, “Where do you think the train is going? What will the kitten do next? How will we reach the moon?” “What would happen if…..?” and will offer you an insight in to their world.

Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. It is important, where possible to try and establish a good reading routine by a child’s first birthday (www.parents.com), whether this is at bedtime, on a morning after getting dressed or before a child has a nap. When you look at books with your child together, they are getting your full attention and the chance of uninterrupted and special time with you is unbeatable.

Reading for the very young may involve simply looking at the pictures of a book. Children will often have their favourite book which they wish to read over and over again. Whilst this may be boring for adults, the story that fuels a child’s imagination will be speaking to their interests and feelings. So we grown-ups need to be patient – my husband and I have read aloud ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ to our children almost every night since they were born. They are now nine and eight years old! In addition to old favourites, expose your child to a wealth of books and eventually they will be ready for more stories. As they grow, having access to information in printed word will be an absolute necessity; as we know, knowledge is power and books are full of it (www.rif.org).

How to read with your child at any age:

  • Set aside some time
  • Sit close together
  • Point to the pictures
  • Encourage your child to talk about the book

Above all, make it FUN!

Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. Reading immerses babies and young children in sound and rhythms of speech which are crucial for language development. Studies at the Brown University School of Medicine, USA have demonstrated that children who are read to regularly had a greater vocabulary and understanding of words than those who had not been read to. Reading helps children develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. When the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child’s life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.

Reading aloud, by its very nature is interactive, sensory and can be hugely exciting for everyone. Reading books aloud can help children develop key literacy skills and help them develop a love of reading for life. A child’s future is brighter when he or she has a love of reading and plenty of books to read. When reading aloud, it is important to deliver the telling of the story well for the benefit of the child; we adults must show enthusiasm for the story and, when appropriate, we should use funny voices or pull different facial expressions.

Sometimes our voices need to be as loud as thunder, sometimes we need to be as quiet as a mouse. Before you read a book, you and your child will have more fun if you consider the following:

  • Know the book – read it in advance
  • Choose a book that features a character that your child can relate to
  • Like the book you are reading (your enthusiasm will be infectious, your boredom will have the same effect!)
  • Make sure the book is written well and suitable to be read aloud

From a scientific perspective, research demonstrates that children who enjoy reading do better at school in all subjects (www.booktrust.org). Although the life of a parent can be very hectic reading with your child as part of their daily routine sends out a clear message that reading is important. Reading together (this may just be looking at pictures) gives a perfect excuse to take time out of ‘life’ and drift off into an imaginary world. And we don’t need research to tell us that this is a good thing!