Reading is an essential skill that needs to be cultivated in early childhood to increase cognitive and emotional development. Through reading, not only will a child’s vocabulary be extended, it piques their curiosity too which leads to improved concentration and better ideas.
Children also gain vital communication and social skills by understanding the interactions between characters as they spend quality time with parents during story time.
Reading to four- and five-year-olds every day has a significant positive effect on their reading and cognitive skills (language and literacy, numeracy and cognition) later in life. A poor foundation in literacy prior to school entry not only reduces the likelihood of later success in literacy, but also increases the risk of children dropping out of formal education.
Reading is about actively engaging with and understanding the written text, thereby, enhancing the child’s thinking processes. By experiencing the narrative (the thoughts being expressed by the author), the child’s emotions and intellect are engaged, which deepens their comprehension of what is read – what we call active understanding. This is a critical requirement for a child’s success at school in any subject.
Here are some simple things that parents can do to give their children a head-start in reading:
Actively engage and excite your child about reading
The first five years of a child’s life are most critical for development and learning. The British Cohort Study revealed that reading for pleasure develops children’s brains. The study confirmed that frequent reading boosts intellectual progress in the areas of vocabulary, spelling and even mathematics.
Other possible benefits include helping children process and absorb new ideas and concepts in school and beyond. Games such as Scrabble, Memory and Snap increase exposure to letters, sounds and common words in a fun and playful way.
Utilise reading programmes
Reading programmes will assist your child to master key skills and foster a love for reading. Programmes such as the MindChamps Reading programme will build confidence in reading in children and ultimately give them an advantage as they enter primary school.
These programmes teach children practical strategies to help them actively understand, store, recall and synthesise information and concepts to read more effectively. Once your child has gained confidence and fluency in reading, they will learn how to use their own experiences to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas verbally or in writing to connect themes and ideas.
Set goals to develop a love of reading in children
Before getting started, talk about what you want to achieve from reading the book. Are you analysing a character or learning something new? After completing the book, talk about what you learnt and whether you achieved the goal. This gives your child an understanding of why you are reading and the benefits of it.
Read to your child every day
According to studies on early literacy, young children who develop a love of stories by the age of seven, particularly children who regularly have quality stories read to them in an engaging manner, are highly likely to become active and skilled readers and writers for life.
Research also shows that children who come from homes where parents have dedicated time to give them regular, enriching reading and writing experiences have a significant academic advantage over children who have not had these experiences.
Read to your child every day – for this exposes them to multiple language structures, a wide vocabulary and the sheer joy of language. By making reading enjoyable and exciting and actively engaging them, this will encourage them to read more.
Choose a book that caters to your child’s reading ability
Children have a short attention span, so it is essential to include interactive elements while reading to keep them engaged.
Compile a reading list with books of varying difficulty and start a title that is below your child’s level. Use simple books and cater to their interests. The more you read with your child, the clearer their interests will become. Look out for improvements each time while they work their way upwards. Choosing a book catered to your child’s ability allows them to engage with the story and inevitable they will want to continue reading.
An article by Brian Caswell, Dean of Research & Programme Development, MindChamps.
First published on Cairns Post, the daily newspaper in Tropical North Queensland, Australia.