Reading is a habit that will fetch your child non-stop returns, lifelong. And the best way to spark a love for books in children is to read to them way before they’re old enough to learn the letters of the alphabet, or maybe even hold up a book. Experts such as educator Jim Trelease (who wrote The Read-Aloud Handbook) and various child-related publications have underlined the importance of reading aloud to children. The benefits have been so well-acknowledged that there’s even a designated World Day for it - February 16th. Read on to discover some top returns on read-aloud time.
1. Books that bind
The advantages of reading aloud are not limited to learning and knowledge. Reading aloud can create the ideal environment for building a strong relationship with your little one. Amidst the chaos that invades everyday modern life in the form of busy work schedules, traffic jams and high-maintenance relationships, scheduling a regular one-on-one session with your child can work wonders to strengthen your mutual bond.
2. Brain Gym
The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research conducted a study among 4,000 five- and six-year-olds who were read to daily by their parents. The study revealed that these children were ahead of their peers who were read to less frequently, by as much as a year with regard to their reading proficiency. Any parent who loves to read should check out the Harper Collins publication, 'Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain', by Maryanne Wolf, a world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist. It is a delightful and insightful look at reading, personified as Proust, and the brain, represented by the squid. The bottom line of the book is that the brain and reading are inseparable because the brain is designed to adapt to different kinds and levels of reading material.
3. Widening horizons on paper
Young minds open up to new ideas through books. Books provide vicarious experiences and exposure to situations that your child may not have had access to in real life. This allows her to learn more about relationships, foreign lands, other children, life in other parts of the world, and so on. Reading aloud to your child also allows you to share emotions with her. Tough emotions like sadness, anger and fear find expression in words that you read together. When you read to your little one, you create a safe place for her to analyse and question new information.
4. Communication booster
Talking to your little one and reading to him are two very different activities. According to Trelease, the difference lies in the way in which words are used when we speak and when we read books out loud – the latter being well-arranged and intricate sentences. As a result, a child who is being read to has greater exposure to refined and sophisticated language than one who is not, and in time, he will use these words and phrases in his own speech. This means he will have better communication skills with a bigger vocabulary than his peers who haven’t been read to.
5. Self-esteem escalator
Reading aloud to your child will make her an early reader herself. She will also more quickly develop the ability to communicate easily with peers and teachers. She will have more than enough vocabulary to do well at school. Both will boost her self-esteem, self-image and confidence.
Hopefully these pointers have motivated you to set apart time for read-aloud sessions with your little one. Here are some books to help you get started: Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire, The Toy Horse by Deepa Agarwal, Icky Yucky Mucky by Natasha Sharma, Excuse me, is this India? by Anushka Ravishankar and My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Rao.
Happy reading aloud!
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.