05/ 06/ 2019
The benefits of reading aloud to your child
Picture this – comfy couch, good book, the joy of discovery. Who remembers snuggling on their parent’s, or grandparent’s lap as a small child, sharing in a story? It is a simple pleasure that usually conjures memories of fun, laughter and great conversation. The benefits however, go much deeper than the enjoyment felt by sharing in these special moments.
Reading is vital for developing early language skills and literacy; it builds vocabulary and helps to foster a vivid imagination. There is also a strong link between literacy skills and future success. With an increase in digital media and children given the opportunity to independently engage in electronic media from a younger age, we may be losing sight of the value of reading not just with our children, but to our children.
Research demonstrates that reading aloud to children increases brain activity. The area of the brain that is activated when older children read independently, is also activated when children are read ‘to’. There is a link between reading to children at a young age, and language development later in school. Dr. John S. Hutton, a paediatrician and clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre puts this down to the emphasis on imagination being necessary to interpret a story that is being read aloud.
For example, a child hears that a cat sits on a mat. The thought process that follows is, “I’ve seen a cat before, I’ve seen a mat before, what does that look like?”
Engaging the powers of imagination while also making visual associations may help children to transition more quickly to independent reading of books without pictures. The conversations that follow, encourage further language and vocabulary development as the language used in quality children’s literature is far richer than that used in day to day childhood conversation.
This visualisation process also helps children to be better readers later on, because they’ve developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story.
While reading aloud to children is hugely beneficial for their own development, let’s not ignore the benefits it can have for parents — more quality, face-to-face, engaged (and often cuddly) one-on-one time with your child.
So, how can you get reading more and more with your child?
- Provide access to books at all times;
- Be a reading role model;
- Read aloud to your child;
- Encourage independent reading and;
- Allow them the freedom to choose books they want to read.
Finding the right book at the right time can light an emotional spark within a child that motivates them to read more, understand more and read joyfully. When that happens, the world opens and everything becomes possible. We can think of no better gift, than to share the love of reading with a child.
Dr John Hutton
Paediatrician and research fellow Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre
Kids and Family Reading Report (in conjunction with YouGov)