It can often feel overwhelming with all of the different philosophies and opinions floating around surrounding education. Some studies will show that it’s important to never say no to your child, another will highlight the importance of understanding boundaries. It is not often that something is universally accepted as ‘best practice’, but reading is one thing that is. Reading at home with your children is one of the simplest, yet most effective, ways to supplement your child’s education and ensure future success.
Through hundreds of studies, it has been found that children that read at home with their parents perform better “educationally and socially than those that do not.” The age at which to start varies depending on the research, but in general: the earlier the better. Many studies cite that reading with your children before the age of 18 months is best practice.
The key word in this is: with. Reading to your children has many positive impacts, but what we are discussing is reading with your child. Although it may seem counterintuitive to read with a child that can’t… well… read, the act is more complex than simply teaching them how to formulate the letters c-a-t. Having them sitting next to you with the book in front of you both, allows them to follow along with the visuals even if they can’t read the words.
Reading with your child offers the following benefits OUTSIDE of them simply learning to read:
- Letter recognition
- Language skills
- Attention/ concentration
- Emotional management
- Colour recognition
- Develops imagination
Now that we know the benefits, how do we do it? That may seem like a simple question but, once again, it’s more complex than simply reading aloud with them looking at the page. It’s important to point out the words as you’re reading them to promote letter and phrase recognition. Point out animals, shapes and colours within the photos to promote colour recognition, curiosity and attention. If your child ever points at anything on the page or shows interest in some way, be sure to say the phrase out loud and repeat it a few times, this will enforce their interest and motivate them to point more often so that they get a reaction. With older children, engage them in the story by asking simple questions along the way such as “what do you think will happen next” or “what colour is this.” This will motivate children to pay attention and aid in memory development. Reading can also help with emotional management as you can find books that relate to things that may cause your child stress or anxiety such as starting a new school. Lastly, have fun! More than anything, this is one-on-one time for you and your child to bond and connect with a shared topic and interest.
Now that we know the what and how, let’s look at why. Studies show that if you read to your children 3-5 days per week, they will have the cognitive abilities of a child 6 months older than them by the time they are 4 or 5. Reading to your child 6-7 days per week, will have your children functioning at the reading and cognitive abilities of a child that is 12 months older than them. When asked, a primary school teacher with the HWDSB said that, “identifying if a child has been reading at home is as easy as identifying their hair colour.”
Overall, reading is one of the keystones of education, and is the starting point for success and ease in all other developmental areas. If you make ‘family read’ a fun and positive experience, it is an enjoyable way to aid your child’s success and confidence as they move forward.