Written by: Julie Provencher
A recent survey revealed that only 36% of parents read to their children, and a mere 6% read themselves to lead by example. These results raise a red flag... Given the knowledge we have of the many benefits early reading has on child development, how can parents be persuaded to have more reading time for both themselves and their kids? Studies show that reading to your child at a young age paves the way for future academic success, as well a lifelong love of books and reading!
Given that your baby’s primary daily activities include sleeping, eating, smiling and making a string of gurgling noises... it’s understandable that you may think he’s too young, but quite the contrary! Interests and preferences are constantly evolving from a surprisingly young age. Initiating your child to music is very similar. Although your baby certainly can’t sing along to your favourite tunes, you still keep the music on, however young he may be. Through exposure to music (and to different types of music), you encourage your child to develop his own musical taste. The same can be said about reading! As early as birth, books must be integrated to your newborn’s surroundings. It’s never too early! Even if your baby can’t hold or manipulate the books alone, they should still be within reach. Adults can simply drop cloth books in the baby’s playpen, plastic ones in the tub or board ones in the toy box.
As parents, we have the privilege of helping our children discover books, and a proactive approach will nurture their curiosity and interest in these. Some parents believe their children show no interest in books, when in reality, initiating a child to reading by making a variety of books accessible is giving him the possibility to learn about his own preferences. What’s important to remember is to help your child discover what he likes to read. Whether it’s books that make sounds, have mirrors or different textures (crinkly, soft, scratch), or books with a specific theme or character, parents need to be attentive to their children to become familiar with their preferences. It’s simple; exposure to books increases your child’s interest in these!
Your baby observes your every move and is receptive to the sound of your voice. But is he too young to understand what you’re reading to him? Not at all! Naturally, your baby needs your help; he can’t discover books without you. Imagine a baby left alone in a library... he couldn’t possibly understand the books within his reach. He absolutely needs your support, your words, and your explanations to understand the story. It isn’t enough to put a book in his hands; you need to be the bridge between your baby and the story. Very simple actions can make a big difference: point out various images, name objects, sing part of the story, laugh, alter the tone of your voice when changing characters, etc. These small actions allow children to observe the illustrations, love story time and develop their understanding with your input.
Several parents believe that preparing their child in terms of literacy consists in giving their time and support once school starts, helping their child learn letters and sounds, and making sure school assigned home reading gets done. Although these parents have the best intentions in the world, they have to understand that initiating a child to literacy should begin long before school does, and that learning to read involves much more than learning the alphabet’s letters and sounds.
A child who is read to develops “invisible” skills. He learns that stories have a beginning, middle and end; that good readers question themselves, anticipating the story’s ending; and that some subjects are entertaining while others aren’t. Books help children develop their understanding of the world and expand their vocabulary. I remember when my 3 ½-year-old son told me during dinner: “Mom, I’ve considered it and I’d like a red truck.” The new words children learn and integrate to their vocabulary will help them with their school reading; and will also be useful when they start writing.
Studies confirm it1! More children who were read to daily by their parents (or an adult of the house) when they were 18 months old reported reading for pleasure. It was also revealed that children who were initiated to literacy at an early age are more likely to pass their sixth-grade reading exam2. It’s a fact, telling stories or reading books to children when they are very young has a strong beneficial impact on their future reading skills and love of books.
Therefore, dear parents, why not make that bedtime routine more interesting with a story!
1.Based on data from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD), 1998-2010.
2.INSTITUT DE LA STATISTIQUE (2012), Les facteurs liés à la réussite aux épreuves obligatoires de français en sixième année du primaire : un tour d’horizon. Vol 7, Fascicule 1, December 2012.