Here are some expert tips from Readly to get started
By Chris Couchman
A YouGov poll commissioned by digital subscription app Readly revealed only 28% of Aussie parents and grandparents read to their children every day, while roughly 1 in 10 parents and grandparents read to children less than once per month.
By not reading to children regularly, and in failing to read out loud to children, caregivers are depriving them of the valuable opportunity to develop a keen love of reading.
Studies demonstrate that children of all ages continue to benefit enormously from being read to. Reading together strengthens the bond between parent and child and it also nurtures children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development.
For very young children, reading with a caregiver is linked to increased focus and decreased levels of aggression and hyperactivity. According to paediatric experts, reading to children gives them the words to describe their most difficult feelings, which allows them to better regulate their behaviour when they’re feeling sad, angry, or frustrated.
Brain scans indicate that hearing stories activates the part of the brain responsible for processing visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning. Even babies benefit from being read aloud to and the benefits don’t stop even when children are older and can read for themselves. Research suggests children from 6-12 enjoy a cognitive boost when they are read to for an hour each day.
As reading levels continue to plummet amongst older children, reading aloud has the potential to stem the growing tide of non readers. Sadly, the numbers show parents stop reading to their child by the age of 8, with just 19% of 8 to 10-year-olds read to daily by an adult, across all socio-economic groups.
While the global respondents of the Readly commissioned YouGov survey understood that reading “improves language skills”, “enables children to learn more about various subjects or cultures”, and “gives children time for themselves”, it takes a more hands-on approach to set kids up for life when it comes to reading.
It’s unequivocal that reading out loud is essential, but how do parents engage children of all ages to enjoy reading together on a regular basis?
- Don’t just read at bedtime. Reading before going to bed is a classic ritual but,for some children, it can be associated with having to stop playing. Build a more positive association with reading by switching up times and locations. Parents can try reading under the table or at a picnic outside while eating snacks to make it fun.
- Don’t be afraid to embrace technology to encourage reading. Just because children are turning to devices doesn’t mean they have to switch off from reading. There’s a plethora of easily accessible content on the web and in apps to encourage our children’s literary growth.
- Comic books can be a great place to start. With an emphasis on reading being fun, easy and above all, essential to establishing a regular reading habit, embracing comic books is a simple way to help more children find reading pleasure. Comics are also an excellent, non-threatening reading option for children to start reading in a non-native language.
- Lead by example. Children imitate their parents and other adults around them. Set a good example by cultivating your own reading habits. Don’t forget to discuss the latest article, magazine or book you’ve read with your child any time the opportunity arises.
- Ask and answer questions together. On that note, reading widely even if you think the material is too advanced for your child is a great way to introduce new words and concepts. Use this as a way to capitalise on children’s natural curiosity to explore and learn together.
Reading out loud to children is undoubtedly a much-loved ritual between parent and child, one that gifts us with a rare moment of pause to engage more deeply with the world through words and ideas. Parents are the bridge between stories and children’s own lives.
Without their involvement, youngsters have no way of making sense of what they’re reading. From recognising patterns in language to discovering something new about the world we live in, the benefits of reading aloud to children builds by the day. For children’s sake, we must make the time to read.
Chris is head of content at Readly.