Reading aloud with your kids helps them thrive

By People Daily
Wednesday, February 5th, 2020
An adult tutoring a kid. PHOTO/COURTESY
In summary
    • Lets children experience the joy of stories.
    • Models fluent reading.
    • Increases vocabulary and an understanding of sophisticated language patterns.
    • Exposes children to new authors, texts, and genres.
    • Builds awareness and empathy. If you want your kids to care about the world around them, and be inspired to make it a better place, read to them.
    • Improves their long-term reading success.
    • Helps children grasp big picture aspects of narrative.
    • Instills moral lessons and heroic values. Rather than you imparting life lessons, the stories and characters in those stories get to do so.

Ann Nyathira

For many children, being read to by their parents is a cherished ritual. But it’s also much more than that.

Reading aloud to children, research has shown, helps expand their literacy skills, love of reading, worldview, and more.

Reading aloud has been linked to increase in children’s vocabulary, listening, comprehension, story schema, background knowledge, word recognition skills and cognitive development.

Alice Mwangi, a teacher at Trinity International Kindergarten in Lavington agrees there is a direct and causal relationship between reading to children at a young age and their future schooling outcomes. 

“Parents who take time to not only read, but read aloud to their children are doing them a huge favour.

I recommend for parents to read aloud to their children every day when they can. It can be in the evening as a bedtime story on during the day.

Which toddler doesn’t love sitting on their parent’s lap and hearing that beloved voice reading aloud to them?” asks Alice.

Bonding activity

Alice describes reading to children as a memorable bonding activity, a way to jump-start a child’s education as well as fast tracking their way to literacy.

Alice Mwangi, a teacher at Trinity International Kindergarten. Photo/COURTESY

Reading aloud promotes early literacy skills such as book handling and naming, understanding how stories work, recognising sounds and letters, expanding vocabulary and honing listening skills.

“It helps them see the world through a different lens, in so doing the child will develop a love for books, a reading culture, sharpen spoken language and they will build their vocabulary.

Besides the educational and cognitive benefits, it is a great way of connecting with little ones.

The moment you start reading to your child, you introduce them to a better, more spacious world, it is something that parents must nourish,” she says.

From her experience interacting with children on a daily basis, Alice has observed that most parents do not read to their children for various reasons such as busy daily schedules or they do not just understand the importance of the activity.

“As a teacher, I always recommend to parents to reinforce reading at home, but they always say they are busy or that they arrive home late and do not find time to do it.

I have noted that children whose parents read out aloud to them, start reading earlier, they are actually even eager to read aloud in class since it has built their confidence,” says Alice.

Reading aloud to children is so significant that the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that parents read aloud to their infants from birth.

Recognising that besides the cognitive benefits, reading aloud can reduce hyperactivity and attention problems in children by helping them have better control of their behaviour, which is important for learning when they begin school.  

Speech and language therapist Lorna Muthamia-Ochido says that reading aloud to your child is important, although the merit of reading to your child cannot be considered in a vacuum.

Speech and language therapist Lorna Muthamia-Ochido. Photo/COURTESY

“I tell parents to read as much as they find time to. If all you get is five minutes a day, as long as you offer quality to your shared reading time.

Research has long established that strong oral language skills are a predictor of not just a child’s readiness for school, but also how well they’ll perform as they move through the school years,” says Muthamia.

Often, parents are responsible for ensuring their child develop strong oral language skills and they can achieve this by providing a language-rich environment and exposing their child to quality language experiences.

One way parents can achieve this is by reading to their child, but there are many other activities performed that further promote a child’s language skills such as talking, singing and playing with a focus on building language, limiting screen time among many other activities.

Never too early, late

She adds that reading helps teach children how language and communication work.

When you’re reading, you are instilling important foundational skills to language development such as pre-verbal skills: listening, turn-taking, joint attention, etc.

Pre-verbal skills are critical precursors to language development. Also when you read to a child, you’re increasing their attention skills, which subsequently improves their ability to take instruction and, therefore to learn.

Third, you’re improving the richness of their receptive (understanding) vocabulary, which in turn impacts on their talking.

When you read to them, you’re modelling how to read language. You pause at commas and periods.

Your voice inflection changes when you read questions or exclamations. And you can show what you, a fluent reader, do when you come to a word you don’t know.

“It is never too early to begin; you could even begin when the baby is still in your tummy. It is also never too late to start reading to your child, remember what’s important is the shared experience and not even the quality of what you’re reading, but how you’re reading, how you’re stressing on words, intonating and animating your voice and the language or vocabulary you’re exposing your child to,” she says.

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