Reading matters

What is the optimum development you would like to see in your child? Most parents would put intelligence as number one on the list. Bright, smart children, is what we all want. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right school with the right teachers in the hope to accommodate this. What we forget is that as a parent we have the possibility to increase our child’s learning potential simply by making books an important part of their lives. Studies and reports suggest that reading levels are very low in the Arab world. On average, an Arab child reads for six minutes per year, compared with 12,000 minutes in the West!

IT’S NEVER TOO SOON TO FOCUS ON EARLY LITERACY

Years ago, we didn’t know how important it was to read during early childhood.  Parents thought their little ones weren’t ready for reading until they entered the age of five or six years old. Nowadays, we know that early literacy development can begin as early as infancy—or even during pregnancy! You don’t have to wait until birth to begin reading books to children.  We can start reading from the seventh month of the pregnancy.  Because in this stage your baby can hear what is going on outside the womb. He likes to hear your voice.  While you are reading you will notice that your baby will respond by kicking and moving. So, the first of many interactions with your baby will start simply by reading to him. Studies suggest that the preschool years are the most important time for promoting literacy in young children. Early reading instruction lies in the hands of the parents, paving the way toward the skills that will be acquired when formal education begins.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO YOUNG CHILDREN WHO CANNOT LEARN TO READ YET, TO SET THEM OFF IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

It is the task of the parents to make their children familiar with language and books so that they can see how enjoyable reading is. Some of the things parents can do include:

  • Be a model for your child. Children learn that reading and writing are important when they see their parents using these skills.
  • Read aloud with your child every day. At this age, you don’t have to read everything that is written in the book. Talk about the stories you read to make them more meaningful to your child.
  • Make sure your child is surrounded by books: You don’t need hundreds of books at home, but make regular trips to the library or bookshop, not just to borrow books but to spend time together browsing and learning to make choices. In this way, reading becomes a habit.
  • Most importantly, talk to your child a lot! Spend time with them, doing simple activities (cooking, making something, building a model).

BENEFITS OF READING TO A TODDLER OR A PRESCHOOL-AGE CHILD

Nowadays we all know that reading is a good thing. But we are not always familiar with the specific advantages a toddler or a preschool-age child can receive by being exposed to the merits of reading. Below are some benefits that highlight the importance of reading to your child between the ages of two and five.

First of all, your child will have a stronger relationship with you. When children grow older they will be constantly on the move and try to explore the environment by playing and running. Reading a book together will let the two of you slow down and enjoy the sweet cuddly time when your child was a baby. Reading will become a nurturing activity that will bring the two of you closer together.

Reading to toddlers and preschoolers will lead to a higher talent for learning in general.  A lot of studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. Besides how can we expect from a student who struggles to put together words and sentences to understand the science, math, and social concepts he’ll get when he begins elementary school?

Thirdly they will learn the basics of how to read a book. Nobody is born with the knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images they see. These pre-reading skills are the great benefits of early reading.

Furthermore, early readers will develop better communication skills. These children will be much more likely to express themselves and relate to others in a healthy way.  Your child will gain valuable communication skills simply by listening to the interactions between the character in the books you read, as well as the contact with you during story time.

When you are reading a book, toddlers will first become distracted, but eventually, they’ll learn to listen for the duration of the story.  In this way, they will learn to concentrate and have more discipline compared to other children. They will develop a stronger self-discipline, a longer attention span, and better memory retention, all skills your child will need when they enter school.

Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is the fact that they will develop the ability to grasp abstract concepts, recognize cause and effect and they will also use logical thinking in different scenarios.  When your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his or her own world, they will become more excited about the stories you share.

You can also use reading to your child as a great way to help her to get used to stressful experiences like for example, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows them that anxiety is normal.

Children who are exposed to reading prefer to choose books over video games, television and other forms of entertainment as they grow older. They will develop the knowledge that reading is fun instead of seeing this as a chore/task or homework.

From all of this, we may conclude reading matters, start as early as possible. And keep in mind ‘’reading is to the mind what exercise is for the body. I will end this article with a quote from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid; “The first book a child reads opens the first door in that child’s brighter future.” So, let’s try to give our children a bright future simply by reading to them.

 

Msc. Semra Metin, Child Psychologist.

Bright Kids Nursery