I’ve just been chatting on BBC Three Counties Radio about why it’s important to read to kids.
Of course we all know that reading matters, but just how much it matters and how it can impact our children may be surprising.
As a former Deputy Head Teacher & Class Teacher for over 22 years I know that reading gives children a whole host of educational, cognitive, neurological, psychological, and emotional benefits from just simply reading to them regularly. The benefits extend throughout their lives.
Reading isn’t just about literacy and passing the dreaded SATS tests, it’s far more than that. Reading changes the way our brains work, how we relate to and communicate with other people, and how we understand the world.
Here are just a few ways that reading matters:
1. Reading improves your parent-child relationship. All academic studies encourage parents to start reading to their children in infancy not only to promote literacy, but also to improve their relationships with their children. I’m always saying that children spell love ‘T-I-M-E so reading together helps you and your kids connect, which builds strong bonds between you. You’re also nurturing their self esteem and having fun building memories that will last a lifetime for both of you.
2. Reading improves concentration. Children learn concentration and discipline while reading or being read to. A wriggling little toddler eventually gains the ability to focus on longer and more complex stories. So don’t despair or give up too soon. Reading is a really enjoyable way to help your little ones sit still and listen, and it will be helping their ability to concentrate too.
3. Reading builds neural pathways in the brain. Reading is exercise for your brain. It’s not just that your brain processes words and meaning while looking at the text, reading actually changes your brain’s structure. If you need convincing, check out the six-part series, “Why Reading Matters,” from the BBC. You’ll never think about reading the same way again.
4. Reading teaches children about language. Reading teaches your child about the building blocks of language, including cadence, vocabulary, structure, and word definitions. Children’s ability to communicate grows as their reading exposure increases.
5. Reading can make you smarter a study from 2013 suggests that reading to kids in an “interactive style” (asking open-ended questions and engaging your child in the story) can boost their IQ by up to six points as you engage their cognitive ability and help them process the language, vocabulary and text.
6. Reading can make your child more empathetic because navigating social relationships is nearly impossible without the ability to recognise and understand other people’s emotions, and this is really important ! So ask open ended questions like ‘ How do you think he’s feeling?’ ‘How would you feel if that happened to you?’
7. Reading encourages creativity. Reading ignites the imagination, opening up your child’s mind to new ideas and concepts and imaginary worlds. Reading fosters ingenuity and inventiveness.
So the next time you’re tempted to skip reading to your kids at bedtime as you’re too tired, or they say ‘again,again’ because they want the same book AGAIN, pause to ponder just how important it is. You’ll be glad you did!