No matter their age, your child will enjoy the dedicated bonding time that reading on a regular basis will provide. Children respond well to routine as it provides a sense of security and structure for them. Bedtime reading rituals enable an opportunity for one-on-one connection every day, and this sense of consistency is supportive to your child’s overall development. It’s also a great time for cuddles and play, and a gentle way to end the day.
Cognitive and Linguistic development
A child that is exposed to regular reading is provided with frameworks of ‘how the world works’ and where they fit into that world. They begin to learn vocabulary and the meaning of language which fosters the development of cognitive as well as social skills. Cognitive development is the emergence of the ability to think and understand; it’s “the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem-solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood”1
The foundation for reading and writing skills is laid in these early experiences with language, which conveys so much more than practical meaning – emotion, imagination and creativity are all fired up! Visual and auditory processing capabilities are also encouraged, both essential to later learning skills.
Phonemic awareness – the ability to hear, identify and play with individual sounds in spoken words.
Phonics – the ability to connect the letters of written language with the sounds of spoken language.
Vocabulary – The words needed to communicate effectively.
Reading comprehension – the ability to understand and get meaning from what has been read.
Fluency (oral reading) – the ability to read text accurately and quickly.
Exposing your child to stories that are beyond their known world, activates their imagination to explore people, places and experiences beyond what they have already encountered. This can provide important reference points for them, as they grow and encounter new experiences. It is particularly helpful to use characters and elements from stories to speak about ‘real-life’ matters. For example: “How do you think this boy feels now that his train is broken?” Books can be a platform for children to learn to process and express emotions, and increasingly more abstract thoughts and concepts as they grow.
Useful Tips to Keep in Mind
Keep it fun and playful, for yourself and your child! Explore voices, accents and characters to make the experience engaging.
Be a resource of books for your child. Help them to find books they want to read and try to expose them to diverse topics, characters and styles.
Allow your child to choose! Kids love having the power to choose, and often enjoy the books they picked out themselves far more.
Make books accessible. For younger kids, ensure books are placed on low bookshelves for easy reach. Take a few books with you on daily errands and take advantage of opportunities sitting in waiting rooms or in the car to read with your child.
Read the pictures (particularly for young kids). A ‘picture walk-through’ of the illustrations is a great source of conversation and can aid in vocabulary development as well as in expanding the emotional and social capacity of your child.
Don’t rush. Take time to pause while reading and help your child to make connections between the story and their own world. This can provide a safe space for expressing and processing many things that they are learning about on a day-to-day level.
Books as Role Models
Stories have the power to teach children about important human qualities, such as love, care, compassion and problem-solving. They can also be hugely empowering: the character who faces the terrifying monster (and not necessarily the hairy kind) and finds a way to overcome his/her fear can provide children with themes that are directly applicable in their own lives.
Storytelling has always played a vital role in human culture, across all continents and traditions. It has been used as a method of preserving and passing on important knowledge and of teaching younger generations. In this day and age, we are spoilt for choice – something that may seem overwhelming. So, start simply. Follow your own interests and that of your child and foster a collaborative exploration of the joy of stories, books and reading. This will build a firm foundation for your child to fly through their own lives, inspired by the endless possibilities of their own imagination.