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The importance of reading to children

Reading to my grandson – eighteen months old.

Parents often leave the teaching of reading to teachers! Parents have a vital role to play.

My own story as a reader who became an author:

As a teacher and as a parent, I will always be grateful to my grandfather. I can’t remember when he started reading to me, but one of my earliest memories is of nestling into his chest, feeling his warmth and his arms around me as he held a book. I was the closest to his heart, my brother or cousins were beside us … and his voice carried me to places I had never been before.

I loved being read to. I remember sitting on the carpet at nursery school, with the teacher reading to us. Others may have fidgeted a little, or maybe not. But I was spell-bound. My imagination conjured every word into reality. I became Cinderella, Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Gretel and Snow White.  As soon as I had grasped the skills, I read and read and read. I read anything I could get my hands on. All the Enid Blyton books. Noddy. Secret Seven. Famous Five. The Adventure books. The Mystery books.

When I was in Grade Three, a student teacher read us the CS Lewis classic, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” I was transported to a magical country where animals spoke to humans, where mythical creatures lived, where a terrifying evil witch ruled but always … the Great Lion was on the move, and I knew he would  change everything to the way it should be. And in that story, I was Lucy.

Once I could read, there was no stopping me. It seemed the world lay at my feet.

Research has proven that reading to a child from an early age has significant impact on that child’s literacy skills.

I began to write stories in Grade Two – and it’s a fact; reading is like a Life-Coach to all of a child’s language skills. As she reads, she assimilates the other aspects of language, such as an ever-increasing vocabulary, spelling and how to use punctuation.  But not only that, research has proven that reading to a child also improves and enhances cognitive (thinking) development, self-discipline and concentration, and creativity. Reading to your child sets him or her up for academic success, as reading is used to acquire information and knowledge.

The correlation between intelligence, imagination and reading.

At teacher’s college I wrote my dissertation on the link between Imagination and Intelligence. I carried out some interesting tests on my Grade Seven class to measure imagination, and then to compare my results with the learner’s IQ measurements. There was the expected relationship between imagination and intelligence, but what I found most interesting of all was the direct correlation between the learner’s Imagination Quotient and his or her Reading Age. I proved for myself, in a simple way, that reading increases imagination and creativity. We  know that curiosity and imagination are vital motivations for learning.

SO – Parents, Care-givers and Teachers – do yourselves and your children a big service! READ TO THEM!

Where and how to start:

I started with my own babies as soon as they could focus. Cuddled on my lap with a book in front of him, I introduced my baby to the delight of the pictures, the mystery of print that could be deciphered into words and the process of turning the pages, starting from the front to the back.

I selected the thick cardboard books produced for babies and toddlers, and I chose bright colours, and at first – photograph-type pictures of domestic animals. I read the short sentences with animated expression, and made the sounds of each particular animal.

By the time my first son was 20 months old, he could stand next to me while I fed my second son, and listen to a simple Ladybird  Book story including repetitive lines (like the “Little Red Hen” or “The Enormous Turnip”) . We chanted nursery rhymes or sang childhood songs like “The Wheels of the Bus” or “Old MacDonald had a farm”. From that simple beginning, reading became a joy for them too.

And then, of course – when grandchildren came along, I read to them too! As you can see from the photo, it was the best fun ever!

That’s enough for today. But – let me say it again … if you want to help your child with literacy – it’s simple, and never too late to start – READ TO HIM or HER. You will find it’s wonderful quality time too.

To end with – an inspiring short talk by teacher Rebecca Bellingham on why we should all read aloud to children!

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