I have so many wonderful memories of being read to as a child. I am the eldest of 5 children so have strong memories of my parents reading to me and my younger siblings. Storytime was always a special moment when we would come together and pause in our day, we would share and connect, laugh and cry over books.
It is widely accepted that exposure to books and reading in the early years has a significant impact on children’s academic development. When this exposure happens within strong and significant relationships it also promotes the development of children’s sense of identity and social/emotional development. An added benefit is that we raise children who love reading!
When to start?
Did you know that you can start reading to your baby before they are even born? Reading, talking or singing to your unborn child is a great bonding activity. Babies can start to hear at around 16-18 weeks in utero and by around 6 months in utero, are taking in all the noises around them. Studies have shown that infants react to the sounds they have heard before they were born, including books that have been read to them! You can pick anything to read, favourite children’s book you will read once they are born, your novel or even the newspaper. They will hear the language you are using but are mostly learning your voice, tone and the rhythm of language.
This is a fascinating scientific study if you would like to learn more. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1302159110
Reading and connecting with infants
As a parent there are days when it can be hard to connect with very young children. Their needs are so focused on survival and it takes some time for them to be able to respond to our interactions – however reading is always a great option!
By sharing our love of reading with infants we can
- connect through a shared experience
- teach them to value and and love reading and stories
- teach them about emotions and expressions
- demonstrate facial expressions and mouth movements and invite them to mimic us
- show them how turn taking works for conversations
- share about our culture and heritage
- share our favourite stories
- model a love of reading and learning
Fostering the love of reading
‘Just one more story?’
How many times have you heard this request? It might be because we are wonderful storytellers, it might be our child is trying to delay bedtime or it might be that they are seeking connection. But usually my response is ‘ok, just 1 more!’. I love an evening ritual that ends with me snuggled up in my daughter’s bed reading our favourite books together. This time together creates opportunities for interactions, conversations and language development.
As we read with children they learn
- the value of books and stories
- the patterns of oral language
- rhythm and rhyme
- the structure and parts of a book and how to care for them
- different genres and types of books
Books aren’t just for bedtime!
While an evening story is a great way to finish the day – there are so many other times we can include stories in our days! In our family we currently have – bedtime books, car books, bath books, nappy bag books and books to read on the toilet! My daughter is much happier to sit while I brush her hair if we read a story at the same time.
Remember that a love of reading is a gift that lasts a lifetime. In your family, make books something to be enjoyed, celebrated and treasured. Your child will reap the rewards!