The power of reading time for children

2011-02-10 00:00

EVEN though our children are able to access so much information from a large variety of sources, we cannot deny or underestimate the power that reading to a child has. It’s been seen again and again how reading to children of all ages — right up to high school — continues to improve skills such as comprehension and listening, and builds vocabulary.

It must be remembered that children’s minds feed on new concepts, information, unusual words and tantalising sounds, which good literature offers. So instead of reading watered-down literature, choose good-quality, well-written stories and poetry. When choosing books to read, you need to find books that allow them to listen to your tone, intonation, passion, expression and the rhythm and flow of the language, as well as providing the opportunity for them to store up a large vocabulary for later usage.

Remember not to forfeit babies’ minds which are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. Use these early months to read good-quality, chapter books out loud.

In this fast-paced life we need to try to make reading to our children a daily practice.

• Link books to events that are happening in your life or that link into your children’s interests andpassions.

• Find a quiet time when everyone is relaxed and calm.

• Do not attempt reading after they have eaten sweets or are anxiously waiting to do something else.

• Choose a comfortable place to sit.

• Unplug or turn off your phone. This makes the children realise that you are serious about this time with them and will not let anyoneinterrupt it.

• Have story time at the same time every day so the children can expect and anticipate the time.

• If your children can’t sit still, allow them to draw or colour in while you read.

• While you are reading, stop and ask your children what they think is going to happen, which character they would like to be and why.

• As a recall strategy, ask the children to tell others what happened.

• Look at the pictures and talk about them, what happened previously and what they anticipate.

• Before each reading, ask your children to revise what happened the day before.

Remember, this is a time when you are intimately involved with your children. Do not be the one to fill their heads with wishy-washy, no-point stories. Let the literature you choose for story time introduce topics that your children will discuss with you, that will spark new ideas and will make them wait in anticipation for the next day’s reading.

An important tip to remember is to stop reading before they get bored or lose concentration. If they become irritable, rather stop cheerfully in the middle of a chapter than make them sit through more pages. You must also always be aware of the content that is within the book. It should uphold family values, instil a love for God, the world, others and themselves, and never instil any sort of fear in them. Just because it is published doesn’t make it a good book.

We need to view reading to our children as not only a priority but a privilege. We have the opportunity to supply their young minds with great thoughts, a large vocabulary, provide them with the opportunity to develop comprehension skills and spark new ideas from a young age. As parents, we want the best for our children and reading to them from a young age, and continuing for many years to come, is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give your children.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. She has worked in schools, at a tutorial centre and privately. She is mother to five children. It’s her passion to share her knowledge and skills on parenting and education with other families.

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