7 Reasons why reading aloud is one of the best things you can do for your child
16 February, 2017
We’ve worked with thousands of children over the years, and we haven’t met one child that doesn’t love storytime.
Reading books out loud makes stories come alive, and with the help of sound effects, actions and unique character voices, it’s no wonder that storytime is a favourite.
Story time is magical, but reading aloud has many more benefits than simple entertainment. In fact, it’s considered to be the most important activity in promoting language development and early literacy skills. Here’s why:
1. Increases Vocabulary
With every line of a story you read, your child hears more and more words, and begins to learn their meaning and how to use them in context. Reading children’s books also exposes children to more sophisticated words that aren’t often used in daily interactions. Research suggests that children’s books contain 50% more rare words than television or college students’ conversations.
This exposure to a variety of words is considered to be extremely important in early childhood development so much so that researchers claim it has a considerable impact on a child’s school career later in life. You can read more about the importance of words in early childhood development here.
2. Increases Phonological Awareness
As you emphasise rhyming words in a Dr Seuss book, or sound out letters and words while reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG, a child is learning how to identify and manipulate sounds. This foundational literacy skill is called phonological awareness, and the better a child is at detecting rhymes, letters and syllables, the quicker they will learn to read.
Reading issues often crop up when children struggle to manipulate individual sounds, also referred to as phonemic awareness. Reading books aloud that contain playful rhymes and encouraging your child to make up their own rhymes are two great ways to increase phonemic awareness.
3. Improves Listening Skills & Attention Span
Not only are children exposed to new words when they hear you read aloud, they are also honing their listening skills, often hooked on every word of the story. Listening skills and the ability to focus on a particular activity are both essential throughout a child’s school career.
4. Teaches Story Structure
Reading a book together familiarises a child with books, reading and storytelling. Children learn how to hold a book and turn its pages. They also learn that stories start at the beginning of the book, and that the tale has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Children also learn that the text in books conveys meaning, and they are exposed to grammar and punctuation. These early literacy skills may seem simple, but they play an important role in reading success in the future.
5. Encourages Bonding & Builds Confidence
Reading aloud to your child provides valuable bonding time between parents and their children. It not only teaches a child about the world; it also helps a child discover who they are in the world, building their self-esteem. Reading aloud can also teach children about friendships and other relationships, as well as key coping strategies, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
The power of reading aloud is not only limited to reading the text, discussing the story with your child is equally a valuable way to learn. Research suggests that conversations that go beyond the text are one of the most powerful aspects of reading together. Referred to as non-immediate talk, these conversations help a child make connections between the story and their own life or world, and encourage a deeper understanding of the story being told. Non-immediate talk also encourages children to use new words, talk about their feelings, and evaluate the story and its characters.
6. Sparks curiosity
Books have the incredible power to transport you to faraway places and submerge you in unfamiliar cultures, all from the comfort of your home. For a child, this experience sparks their curiosity, enlarges their world and encourages them to read even more.
7. Promotes Love For Reading
There is something magical about hearing a story read out loud, and it’s these magical moments of befriending friendly giants and rhyming with a cat in a hat that fosters a love of reading. This positive association with reading and books goes a long way in helping a child learn to read, directly impacting their likelihood of succeeding at school.
It’s clear, the benefits of reading aloud with your child are remarkable. So how often should you read to your child?
Dr Seuss was right when he penned, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
A six-year study conducted by Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that reading to children every day would put them a year ahead of children that were not read to daily. This remarkable benefit of reading aloud was evident regardless of socio-economic status, which is a fresh injection of hope for South Africa amid rampant poverty and high illiteracy rates among primary school learners.
On World Read Aloud Day 2017, we encourage you to make reading aloud a part of your everyday routine.