The importance of reading to your child

Child reading a book

A couple of weeks ago, your school aged child should have come home with a booklet written by Ben Wicks, entitled Born to Read. If she didn’t or if you have a child whose not yet attending school, you can pick up a free copy at Smithbooks, one of the organizations who made the publication of this booklet feasible.

It’s one of the most succint, clearly written pieces I have read about reading to one’s child. The bottom line: Children need to be read to, not just when they’re at an age to comprehend what they’re hearing, but way before that.

Children can be read to from the moment they are born. Often, a newborn receives the benefits of hearing you read as you read aloud to an older sibling.

It’s important to remember that being read to is not just about increasing vocabulary. Reading to your child can be a fun, bonding experience. An opportunity to act out dialogue, to entertain, to experience the magic of being transported to a faraway land.

Children need not be read everything on a page. If your child appears bored, you might just point to the pictures, label the objects and talk about them. Follow your child’s lead – if he or she wriggles off your lap within seconds, don’t assume that he’s too young to be read to – try to find books that will appeal to him or imaginative ways of reading books you already have.

While it’s important to teach children respect for books, there are so many books available that will appeal to children’s sense of curiosity – books that have flaps and folds and pop ups galore. A friend of mine has made a point of buying relatively inexpensive pop up and fold out books for her one year old to explore. While she models respect for books, she has established an environment where her child is encouraged to explore the books, even at the risk of having them torn. It’s uncanny this young childs love of books – she prefers them to anything in the world – except of course, mommy!!

Talking of role modelling. Don’t expect that your child will be interested in reading, books or magazines if you’re not.

A couple of months ago, while reading, I was asked by my three year old daughter what I was doing. Although I thought the answer quite obvious, she was surprised by my response. “But how can you be reading,” she wondered. “You’re not saying anything.” She learnt something new that day, as did I.