Many of us already know that reading to young children is a good thing, yet we might not be cognizant of why. Neuroscience research has confirmed that reading aloud to young children stimulates brain development and language skills. And studies have found that young children will develop a more positive attitude to reading and learn to read with greater ease if they experience warm contact with a caring adult when reading.
Before children enter school, it is vital to read to them every day. Even ten minutes a day can make an impact. It is also a simple and inexpensive way to enjoy some quality time together while opening a world of possibilities. Reading does not just happen; it is a skill that needs to be nurtured from a child’s earliest years. Make sure children have plenty to read, take them to the library regularly, and keep a plethora of reading materials within their reach. Children’s books and magazines also make wonderful gifts and good rewards for showing an interest in reading.
By responding to your child’s natural curiosity and reading aloud, you are introducing them to the magical world of words and starting them on a lifelong journey of literature appreciation. Reading to children builds a myriad of skills that are the building blocks for eventual academic success. Consider some of the skills that are promoted while you read a story aloud.
Listening and attention skills
Reading helps sharpen your child’s listening skills and improve her attention span.
While reading aloud, your child is acquiring new words and their vocabulary matures. They learn new words as well as concepts from the context of the story.
From your reading, they can learn about time (once upon a time). And in space, they will come to know the flow of stories and predict what will happen next.
From books, a child gains a new understanding of their world, perceiving new relationships while building on what they already know, as well as an understanding that the words on a page are symbols for an object or idea in the same way illustrations are.
From reading, language skills are strengthened and refined, and children become fluent users of symbolic language. They learn to form more complex sentences.
Through reading together, your child is expanding her horizons and experiencing a whole new world.
However, those tremendous learning perks will not be maximized if the story isn’t told well. For example, the voice of the storyteller, the impact of gestures, facial expressions, and cadence of language. It is not surprising that kids are mesmerized by stories. As parents, we can kindle this interest by incorporating storyteller techniques into our repertoire of skills.
Do not impose reading time as a chore – it will show. Invite your child to join you and read from a variety of literature – including fairy tales, poetry, non-fiction, fiction and nursery rhymes. Follow your child’s curiosity about certain topics and let that guide your choices. Read your child’s personal favorites again and again if that is their wish.
Although reading is fundamental to learning, keep it fun or interest will fizzle fast. First and foremost, the story needs to be entertaining. No matter how good the material, kids will not pay attention if it’s told blandly. To help ensure a captive audience, professional storytellers offer these tips to weave a magical spell:
Tell only stories you really like
If you don’t, it will show. Let your child see your enthusiasm and share your joy of reading.
Picture the story you are reading
Visualize the scenes you are reading; even if there are no illustrations, it helps the storytelling be more vivid.
Take your time to deliver each word.
Linger in the richness of language so your child can absorb the words and the pictures.
Turn the pages slowly.
It takes a lot of time for kids to digest everything on the page.
Modulate your voice
Try changing it according to the characters and incidents of the story.
Choosing books For Young Children
Young children like listening to books with good rhythm and effective repetition. Ask yourself if the book has words or sentences – are they short and simple to understand? Are the illustrations clear and appealing? As children mature, you can move on to more detailed illustrations without overwhelming a child. Is the book depicting objects, animals, events or people that children will recognize from their own lives? Ask yourself if the theme of the book is clearly defined, do plots evolve logically and progressively? Are the characters memorable? Is it child-centered, yet not condescending?
And remember: when looking for new books, compare them with your child’s favorites to see if they measure up. By using storytellers’ tips, you can instill a love of reading. Above all, by setting aside this quality time, you are helping to form a wonderful bond between you and your child.
Dawn Marie Barhyte is a widely published author with over a hundred articles to her credit. A former early childhood educator and co-director who continues to touch the lives of families through her writing! She lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue chihuahua dachshund.
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