Reading promotes creativity, expands vocabulary, and encourages high self-esteem. It increases a healthy appetite for learning, and even supports our mental health. Most importantly of all, for many of us and our children, reading can be a great pleasure.
Let’s just sit down and open a book…
As parents, we all know the importance of reading, we all hear how crucial it is to our children’s development, but the fact is, we don’t always shine enough light on the wonder of reading for its own sake and the rewards that may be found within the pages of a book. Reading promotes creativity, expands vocabulary, and encourages high self-esteem. It increases a healthy appetite for learning, and even supports our mental health. Most importantly of all, for many of us and our children, reading can be a great pleasure.
Our children don’t have to be keen, independent readers…
The benefits of reading are staggering. If our children are reluctant to read independently - which can be common at every age and stage of childhood - we can help them to access these benefits by reading to them. Being read to is said to raise a child’s intelligence by over six IQ points, according to Laura King, in her book, ‘Perspectives on Psychological Science’, especially when reading interactively is part of a regular routine.
A fifteen-minute read to our children at a particular time of day, bedtime or otherwise:
• strengthens our parent/child relationships through the act of sharing and interacting
• immerses our children in worlds other than their own, reduces stress and ignites their imagination
• helps to develop reading skills and flexes muscles that build empathy
• offers our children insights into a range of relationship dynamics
• introduces opportunities to experience and enjoy turn-taking
• exposes our children to new and exciting vocabulary that they decode (without even realising) and can then experiment within their own conversations.
Fifteen minutes of regular, enjoyable, interactive reading time with a parent is all it takes to achieve a ten-fold improvement in academic progress over time.
Reading is also a way to feed our brains. It’s important to treat our brains with the respect that we afford our physical bodies. They need their books just as our bodies need their broccoli (other vegetables are available) and our children’s brains grow and develop at the most rapid pace during their childhood years.
Reading helps us know how to think…
Reading teaches your child thinking skills; life skills like logic, the ability to determine right from wrong, the concepts of fantasy and reality and how they differ. The teaching of a moral code even begins with reading. In ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, for example, even pre-schoolers may be quick to identify bad from the good, right from wrong, the concept of consequence, the passage of time in a narrative arc (tick your SPAG homeschooling criteria right there) and the difference between fantasy and reality (wolves don’t tend to be chatty in real life).
Our children’s entire wellbeing is improved with reading…
Academic achievement is all well and good, but when it comes right down to it, parents tend to prioritise their children’s emotional wellbeing above all else. Reading to our children, with our children, or listening to them read to us, undoubtedly boosts their brainpower and their confidence, but it also reaps a whole host of emotional benefits.
The UK government’s Rose Review explored data to discover the impact of reading on our children’s mental health. It drew the conclusion that ‘a deep engagement with story-telling and great literature link directly to emotional development in primary-aged children.’ For example, if our child is involved in a story, they tend to empathise with the characters. We, as parents, can extend this impact on their emotional development by talking to our children about what they might do in a character’s situation or if they can imagine themselves in a scene so beautiful/terrifying/exciting [delete as appropriate to your child’s tastes]. We may assume, as adults, that empathy comes naturally, but it is a learned skill. We can support our children to develop it in various tasks and life experiences, including reading.
The O.E.C.D. (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) studied mental wellbeing in children in relation to their level of interest in reading. The research established that positive attitudes to reading correlate directly with a positive mental mindset in the children studied.
Reading with little (and also less little) people needn’t be a chore…
• make books our ultimate everyday accessory. Taking a favourite book into the garden or on a picnic makes our reading experience more varied and more exciting
• use storylines to start conversations, ask thought-provoking questions and introduce a debate. Reading doesn’t have to feel like school. We can talk about our own reading material over dinner, and speculate about what’s about to happen next in theirs to build excitement before bedtime
• reduce stress with stories/comics/historical accounts of interesting events/how to gaming guides. What our children read matters less than the fact that they read, and books offer excellent escapism
• help our children to process their own experiences by reading about characters in similar situations, from the first day at school to sitting exams. Reading can reassure our child that they’re not alone
• choose books we all enjoy. There is no point in reading an advanced text to our children in the hope that they’ll absorb the vocabulary. Let’s choose what we are going to read together. There’s so much to discover and enjoy sharing.
We can build bonds, expand vocabularies, improve mental wellbeing, and allow our children to develop with us reading a book by their side. I’ll leave the last word to American children’s author, Lloyd Alexander, ‘Keep reading. It’s one of the most marvellous adventures that anyone can have.’
If you need support with your child's homeschooling feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com for further information.
Stay well, stay connected, stay informed, Siobhan