The importance of reading with your child

Time seems to fly when you are a parent! One day you have a baby, and before you know it, they are starting 1st class and asking who Harry Potter is. Children grow so fast, and as parents we try to provide positive experiences that give them the best start in life.  Reading is proven to do just that!

Reading to your child, at any age will boost their brain development, your bonding together, and so much more. Reading to young children is proven to improve cognitive skills and supports the development of your child’s growing brain. Your child’s brain is constantly developing and learning. Reading to your child will keep their young minds constantly working. Cognitive development is the ability to think and understand. It refers to how a person perceives and thinks about his or her world through areas such as information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, attention span, and memory. All of this is nurtured and developed through the simple act of reading. Reading allows your child’s imagination to flow, and their confidence within the world to grow. It is a skill that your child will need for life and will benefit them as they progress on into education.

Reading aloud with your child not only has its cognitive and developmental benefits but it also has emotional and social benefits, which are crucial for a young child. A parent reading aloud to their child allows that time to strengthen their bond. It can allow relaxing one on one time away from what could be a very busy day to day life. When it comes to children, one of the most important things you can do to positively influence their development is spend time with them. Developing a positive relationship with your child will carry into relationships they develop throughout their lives. Taking time to read with your child will cultivate this relationship and bond all while creating a love for learning and stimulating their minds through reading.

Books and reading provide an excellent opportunity to get talking, telling stories, and connecting with your child. Reading aloud to children is truly one of the most important activities a parent can do for building skills that are essential for your child and they will carry with them all throughout their life. So snuggle up together and ask your little one to pick their favourite book!

Top tips for interactive reading

While tablets may eventually replace school textbooks, actual books will always have a place, especially with younger children. Read on for some helpful hints for making story time a special part of everyday with your child.

For everybody:

  • Try to sit where your child can see your face (that’s where the interesting expressions happen) and cuddle up.  Enjoy this special time and have fun.
  • Remember read a bit or talk about the picture and WAIT, wait and watch to see what your child will do next, then RESPOND to what they are interested in.

With babies:

  • Copy their actions sounds or words. Talk about and feel the pictures. Let them explore the books physically.

With toddlers:

  • Make comments about what they are interested in. You’ll be amazed what your child sees in the picture that you missed. Grab their attention by putting their name into the story, and watch them glow with delight. Act out as much as you can.

With pre-schoolers:

  • Bring in the idea of predicting what will happen. Read the name of the story and ask them to guess what it may be about by looking at the cover. Encourage your child to get involved in the story by talking about pictures, characters and feelings. Ask your child questions to get them thinking about what’s happening now and what might happen next or in the end. Label and explain new words to your child.

A quiet time in your day for book reading allows for cuddling and bonding and releases all the powerful happy hormones in your child’s brain which help them learn. 

This article was contributed by Emily, Mary and Amanda, Family Support Workers with Barnardos, a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.