Studies have shown that children that are read to on a regular basis have a broader range of vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better level of development when starting school.
What difference can I make as a parent?
You can make a huge difference! Parents are the most important educators in a child’s life and it’s never too early to start reading together. Even before they’re born, babies learn to recognise their parents’ voices. Reading to your baby from birth, even for just a few minutes a day, gives them the comfort of hearing your voice and increases their exposure to language.
At just a few months of age, an infant can look at pictures, listen to your voice, and point to objects on cardboard pages. Guide your child by pointing to the pictures, and say the names of the various objects. By drawing attention to pictures and associating the words with both pictures and the real-world objects, your child will learn the importance of language.
Learning to read is about listening and understanding as well as working out what’s printed on the page. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a wide range of words. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen, which is vital as they start to read. It’s important for them to understand how stories work too. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word, they’ll hear new sounds, words and phrases which they can then try out, copying what they have heard.
Make sure that your child is familiar with language and books so they can see how enjoyable reading is. Some of the things you can do include:
- Reading aloud to your child, talking about the words and pictures, and sharing ideas about the book
- Reading yourself – children who see adults reading, and enjoying it, are much more likely to want to read themselves
- Surrounding your child with books – you don’t need hundreds of books at home, but go to the library or bookshop regularly to borrow books, spend time together, browse and make choices. In this way, reading becomes a habit.