If I could ask a parent to do only one thing with their child each day, that would be to share a book together. It is important that from a young age we build a love of books. I can still remember my favourite book as a child – The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I adored it and was just so amazed that the caterpillar turned into such a beautiful butterfly.
There are so many benefits to regular reading. It builds children’s vocabulary; it helps them understand how to read and write; and it increases their knowledge about different topics and ideas.
If I relate this to my favourite story, I learnt new words such as ‘cocoon’, understood that the pages are turned left to right in English, and built my knowledge about the life cycle too! I still share this story with my children as I feel it is important to pass on the love of books to the next generation.
So how do parents help to encourage a love of reading?
Parents can start sharing stories with their children while still in the womb. Babies recognise the sound of their parents’ voice, so this can be a positive bonding experience together. When your baby is born, suggest books as a new gift. Build a library in your home of favourites from your friends and family. If you speak another language with your child then reading books in this will increase their exposure to vocabulary and support language development as your child grows. Reading together and sharing stories allows young children an opportunity to understand the process of reading, as well as to build listening and attention skills. At bath time and during car journeys, re-tell familiar stories and ask your child to join in with missing parts. Use different voices and costumes. Create role-plays at home to re-enact stories to others. This will also support your child’s expressive and creative talents. As your child gets older, select books together, visit libraries, set up sharing libraries with neighbours and school friends. It is important to remember that all types of reading is good for your child. Find magazines, e-books, newspapers, instructions and recipes, as these alternatives can help your child find a successful way in to a love of reading.
Every parent wants what is best for their child. This is why your role is so important. If children see parents reading their own books, this reflects a positive role model. Take time to choose books, research authors and styles of books. You know what your child likes, what interests and engages them so you can support the reading process. Reading will open children’s minds to new ideas and possibilities. Sharing this journey together is something so special and rewarding that each generation will follow in your footsteps.
By Aminah Evans is Head of Foundation Stage at Hartland International School