There isn’t an educator, researcher or child development expert in the world who doesn’t agree that reading enhances a child’s cognitive and intellectual development. Exposing children to books and reading from their earliest days feeds their natural curiosity, enhances their cognitive development and can ignite a lifelong passion for learning.
Early literacy lays the foundation for lifelong learning
Books spark the imagination and they hold endless possibilities for enjoyment, laughter, stimulation and cognitive development. It doesn’t matter whether the book just has pictures on the page, whether it’s a fairytale, a challenging concept, a reality story or a fantasy one, a funny situation, a new book or a familiar favourite - the printed word has the power to stoke creativity, evoke emotion, foster critical thinking and build a child’s cognitive abilities.
Early literacy starts when young children - and babies too - are exposed to books and where reading is an integral part of daily life. A plastic book in amongst baby’s bath toys. Paging through a picture book with a toddler. A bedtime story routine. A low table with an alluring array of books on offer. Visits to the local library. Parents reading books so that children mirror the adult behaviour and learn by example. All of these activities have a huge impact on early literacy and fostering a love of reading - and learning.
Reading for life
When you consider that birth to age three are the most important years of a child's development and that 90% of a child's brain develops by the time they're five, it’s very clear that the early years are critical. Reading books and being read to stimulates a child’s brain development and we know that early literacy is vital preparation for their success at school and their overall development.
There are also lifelong benefits to nurturing healthy reading habits.
When people are exposed to a culture of reading in the home and at school, they’re more likely to grow into more fulfilled, engaged, interested and interesting contributors to society. They’re also more likely to develop a lifelong love of learning.
How to create an environment that’s conducive to reading
There are many things that parents can do to encourage and support young readers and to shape healthy reading habits.
At home, you can:
- Make storytime or reading together with your child a daily activity. A bedtime story routine not only creates precious bonding moments and paves the way for a calmer transition to sleep time, it also nurtures a love of reading and enhances brain development
- Have a variety of books within easy reach (not stuck away on a hard-to-reach shelf)
- Regularly change up the mix of books on offer (make sure they are age-appropriate) so that your child is exposed to a variety of writing styles, genres and subject matter
- Create a comfy reading corner
- Go on fun outings with your child to your local library
- Demonstrate your own excitement and interest around books and bookshops
- Activate your reading time with your child by using different voices for different characters, making sound effects, incorporating props and using hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions
- Ask questions about the story and try to find particular topics or situations that your child is particularly interested in so that you can fuel their curiosity with other books or activities
By making your reading time dynamic and interactive, you’ll be stimulating your child’s cognitive processes and helping them extend their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Above all, reading should be fun and enjoyable so that your child looks forward to the next activity involving books.
As your child gets older, you should also encourage opportunities for independent reading. This will help them develop their critical thinking skills as they learn to interpret and decode text, question things they have read, acknowledge their emotional responses to the story and reflect on the content. These are all key skills for a child’s successful progression through school and beyond.
Is technology a help or a hindrance when it comes to a child’s reading?
Technology can be a valuable and powerful tool in cultivating a love of reading. The key issue is finding a balance and establishing a relationship with digital devices that is healthy and sustainable.
Technology is empowering and can facilitate learning, but it needs to be used mindfully and responsibly. A good rule of thumb is to start with traditional book formats with your baby and toddler and introduce technology (audiobooks, interactive stories on an iPad etc) slowly and carefully and always under supervision.
Why reading aloud is so important
Reading aloud has a major influence on a child’s intellectual and emotional development.
When you read to a child, you stimulate their imaginations and give them opportunities to develop their language skills, expand their vocabulary and improve their listening skills. They get to hear different tones of voice and different emotions being expressed which benefits their own communication skills.
For more information on this, you may be interested in reading this article on supporting your child’s language development.
Reading also gives children the opportunity to broaden their comprehension and critical thinking skills. It also opens up new worlds of discovery, enabling them to learn about a variety of topics, different cultures and diverse experiences, which in turn can help children develop valuable social skills like respect, empathy, kindness and tolerance.
A last word on reading and learning
A child’s reading skills are inextricably linked to their future success at school and beyond. By making reading part of everyday life at home, at childcare and in early education settings, we can nurture an avid enthusiasm for reading and set them on a path to lifelong learning.
Here at Evoke Early Learning, we follow the highly regarded Reggio Emilia approach to childhood education. This approach has proven to be very successful in setting children up for long-term success - and it’s why you’ll find that books and reading are an integral feature in all of our physical spaces and in our daily curriculum. Come and chat to our friendly Evoke team about giving your little one the very best start in life or book a tour through the website. We’d love to meet you!