Why is reading with children so important?
Updated: Mar 6
I’m a big believer that reading to children as early as possible can have a positive affect on their development in many ways and I think it can also help to cement a love of books and reading if children have positive experiences and associations with it from childhood.
One of my closest friends has been a primary school teacher for over 10 years and has been the head of English in a top London independent school so I asked her professional opinion on the impact that reading and hearing stories can have on children. She agreed to write me a blog sharing her thoughts:
It’s 8pm. I am finally on the sofa after putting my two boys to bed. Tonight’s bed-time stories were, unsurprisingly, Hairy McClary “Scattercat” and “Detective Ted”. I say unsurprisingly as this was perhaps the 9th night in a row of reading about a socialite dog and a bear who solves crimes. Although it feels like groundhog-day, my son genuinely LOVES listening to the same story over and over again and actually this is great for his development. Here’s why:
It's incredibly important for children to be exposed to as much language as possible. This starts from the day they are born. Research shows that the size of a child’s vocabulary bank by the time they enter school, predicts future success (Quigley, 2018). When I first read this I was alarmed, but actually, when you think about it, children are exposed daily to language from their parents, nursery, chats with neighbours etc which all form the basis of their communication. However, the vocabulary that they are exposed to whilst reading is more sophisticated, more exciting and more captivating and if they read and re-read a book, they will begin to internalise this sophisticated vocabulary and build up their word hoard.
My three-year old son is now at a point where he can read Scattercat and Detective Ted along with me; he has memorised it. It’s interesting listening to him retell the story of the bumptious dog as it becomes clear which parts of the tale he comprehends and which parts he is simply parroting. When playing with my son, I usually try to cash in on his love for whichever story is top-of the-pops. I give him the teddies and toys that he can use to retell the story. At the moment, my role is turning his cuddly cat into the cantankerous Scarface Claw – this gives me a chance to repeat the language he has heard but also add extra dialogue so that he begins to understand the meaning of new opportune language, as well deepening his understanding of the story. We also ‘play’ Hairy McClary where we take it in turns to take on different roles. Again, this role play is so important in helping him internalise story language as well as story structures.
As a primary school teacher I can honestly vouch for the power of reading and stories. It is always clear to me which children are avid readers. The overwhelming majority of keen readers have stronger structures for their writing, their language is more sophisticated and their communication skills tend to be more advanced than their peers. This is not to say that all reluctant readers struggle; I have known non-readers achieve incredibly well but the correlation between reading and academic success is staggering.
The purpose of this is to simply remind parents of the importance of language and creating a love for it at home. The easiest way to do this is to encourage your children to love books. Share stories, act them out, draw pictures relating to the story or listen to audio books. Give your children the opportunity to develop their own love for stories and language.
“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book!” – Dr. Seuss