The Importance of Reading to your Child.

As a Speech Therapist who specializes in reading therapy I cannot emphasize the importance of reading books to your children enough. Reading books to your children from before the age of one will benefit their speech and language development as well as their pre-literacy and literacy skills immensely. This will also impact their cognitive and social development while they  develop a love for books and reading.

“Reading to children, even before they understand, teaches them to associate books with love and affection.” –Anonymous

Most parents love to buy their children books and read it to them. Do you know why it is so important to read books to your child?

– When you read to your child it is a language learning and social activity.

– Listening to a story enriches their vocabulary. Stories have many wonderful new words which your child can learn, it also reinforces vocabulary that has already been learnt. Children learn new words and complex sentence structures.

– It also improves their listening skills. They have to listen, focus their attention and remember what they have heard.

– It also teaches them better communication skills by improving their knowledge and understanding of certain situations and how to communicate in such situations.

– It improves their letter and print awareness which will help them to be successful readers one day.

How should you read to our child?  

Make sure that story time is a fun and relaxing time for your child. Reading must be done with patience to give the child the opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time. This is also a great time to bond and learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes, fears and dreams.

You can also challenge the way they think. Ask them about their expectations of the story (what do you think will happen next?), their needs/desires (do you also feel like having an ice cream?) and relate what happens in the story to their real life.

It’s very important to incorporate senses (taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing) when reading to your child e.g. Ask them how they think the bunny will feel (soft), how the ice cream will taste (sweet), how the cow looks (big, black and white). This is a great way to expand their vocabulary and sentence structures.

Here are some tips to follow:

  • Look at the front page of the book and discuss the picture with your child. Ask them what do they think the book is about. Show them where the name of the story is written.
  • Focus the child’s attention on what is happening on each page.
  • Read slowly and emphasize the words that you would like your child to learn.
  • If your child is small, only say the actions, names and concepts on each page instead of reading complex sentences. Make the appropriate sounds and noises.
  • Add language (imitate sounds, label/name and expand knowledge on certain subjects) to your child’s gestures/when he is pointing to things or naming something.
  • Focus on the character or picture that your child finds interesting – follow their lead.
  • Repeat words often, repetition is key to learning.
  • Discuss the pictures on each page while pointing to the target.
  • Explain the meanings of words that your child may not know.
  • Ask appropriate questions on each page.
  • Show your child the direction in which books are read in (left page first, then right page) and follow with your finger as you are reading the words, to show your child the direction in which to read (left to right).
  • Give your child the chance to turn pages.
  • If they are older, ask them to retell the story in their own words at the end of the book.

“You are never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child” – Dr. Seus

Did you know? 

* If you read just one book a day to your child, they will have been read 1825 books by their 5th birthday.

* 15 minutes of reading to your child each day will expose them to +/- 1 million written words per year.


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