Benefits of reading to your little ones

Books are entertaining and fun but more than that, sharing books with your child is extremely beneficial for their early development and life long learning.

Reading books with your children provides them with many building blocks for important development throughout life. Books spark the imagination, expands their vocabulary and encourages them to think.

It’s never too early to start reading books.

Reading to babies at least from birth is one of the more beneficial activities you can do with them.

Reading aloud to your baby teaches them the importance of language. The more stories you read to them, the more words they will hear and the better they will be able to talk.

A young baby won’t understand the words you are saying but they will start to pick up tones, pitch and rhythm in your voice. They will learn the “story voice” or the sound of a story.

As babies learn through their senses it’s a great idea to have books with simple colourful pictures, touch and feel pages or ones that make fun noises .

Reading to your baby also promotes wonderful bonding moments for you both as they lay in your arms and listen to your soothing and calming voice. This supports social and emotional development.

This learning continues to toddlerhood.

Enthusiasm for a book captures a toddler’s mind and imagination. Seeing their excitement as they follow along with a story or start to anticipate what is going to happen next is a magical thing to watch as a parent.

Books are a great way to develop your child’s attention and concentration, because as we know, at this age toddlers can lose interest in activities very quickly!

Consistent reading will help improve their ability to sit still for longer periods, which can in turn help in schooling years later in life. Start with short, simple picture storybooks or non-fiction books about things that interest your child.

It’s also important for toddlers to know how a book works; where the beginning is, where the end is and how to turn a page. These early literacy skills are the foundation of learning to read themselves. It’s through these simple actions they will start to develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity (finger movement and control) and cognitive (memory and thinking) skills.

Children can continue to learn from books as they grow.

Books offer a wonderful bridge to talk about behaviours and feelings. When you read with your child, it can provide them with an opportunity to explore a wide range of emotions and when a child starts to puts themselves into a story, or see things from another perspective, they will begin to develop empathy and begin to identify with the characters and what they are feeling.

So it’s a great idea during reading time with your child to start exploring the wider range of emotions, behaviours and responses characters are going through. It’s as simple as pointing out different emotions and discussing them, for example “Spot looks excited / proud that he’s helping his mum bake a cake!”.

Another, and perhaps one of the most important, benefit of reading to your child is language development. Reading a book means using words or phrases they might not hear in everyday life which will help to extend their vocabulary. As you read you may find them asking what certain words mean and taking time to explain definitions is fantastic for their learning.

Reading is also a great activity to do at playgroup or in a group setting, sharing books together can stimulate new interests and promote sharing – one child’s enthusiasm for a book can capture other children’s attention fostering children’s social skills and broadening interest. It can also be a calming activity to wind down children after having a big play sesh!

Little things you can do…..Keep story time engaging by using a variety of books. For toddlers or older children, try asking them retell parts of the story “what fruit did the hungry caterpiller eat?”. As they start to take an interest in words and print, you can start talking about sounds, letters, words and sentences. For example, “That’s a long word, look how many letters is has” or “Lets say the letters out loud together.” This will all help develop concepts for reading.

If you’re at playgroup, be sure you include a wide selection of books (both non-fiction and story books) for everyone to enjoy. If you want to read more about using books in your own playgroup, read about our ideas here. Our Make Your Own Book activity is also a fun one to do with little ones!