Every parent wants their child to be successful – to do well at school, learn to read and write, and ultimately find work they enjoy. But did you know there’s one simple strategy that can help your child achieve those goals?
That strategy is reading. Research shows that how often children are read to at a young age directly affects their schooling outcomes, regardless of their family background or home environment.
Reading to your child helps them to develop literacy – the ability to use language confidently for learning and communicating. At school, literacy is vital to the Australian Curriculum. Reading to children aged 4-5 every day has a substantial positive effect on a child’s reading and cognitive skills later in life.
It’s so powerful that reading to children 3-5 days per week has the same effect on their reading skills at age 4-5 as being six months older. And reading to them 6-7 days per week has the same effect as being almost 12 months older.
Additionally, children who read to more frequently at age 4-5 achieve higher scores on Year 3 NAPLAN tests, for both reading and numeracy.
Reading together also nurtures the bond between you and your child, kindles their imagination and curiosity and helps in regulating their emotions.
Making time for storytime
Yes, family life is hectic. Adding reading to an already long list can seem like a chore. But with all its benefits, making the time to read regularly with your child is an excellent investment in their future.
Reading with your child should be a relaxed time of bonding and fun. What better way to spend time together than snuggled up with a book?
To help you get the most from reading with your child, we’ve put together a range of useful tips to make reading easy, educational and fun! The list is divided into things you can do before, during and after reading time.
- Let your child choose what to read. If they’re too young, choose books that are age-appropriate (not too hard or long) and match your child’s interests (such as dinosaurs or favourite characters).
- Find a quiet, distraction-free and comfortable reading spot and position the book so your child can clearly see its pages.
- Teach your child how to choose good books at the library.
- Build the expectation that storytime is fun and exciting. For example, discuss the book’s cover, plot or characters or talk about the author.
- Have your child ‘read’ picture books to you to stimulate their imagination. Young children can ‘read’ to their toys.
- Set a purpose for reading, such as noticing the actions of the main character or identifying specific words.
- Let your child hold the book and/or turn the pages.
- Read with expression to entice your child into the story. For example, use different voices for different characters and vary your speed.
- Read in a context that suits the narrative. For example, read a book about sea creatures at the beach.
- While reading, point to pictures or illustrations to connect words with images.
- When they’re ready, share the reading with your child. Have them read every second page, for example, or chime in with words they know.
- Look up the meaning of tricky words as you come across them.
- Encourage your child to make predictions by asking, “What do you think will happen next?” or “What do you think [the character] might do?” at key points in the narrative.
- Discuss more challenging ideas and concepts with your child. Ask questions like, “Why do you think this character made that decision?”
- Encourage your child to make connections between things in the book and their own experiences. For example, “Did you notice how [the character’s] sister talks to him like yours does?”
- Visit places mentioned in books, such as museums or sports grounds. Or cook food that you’ve read about, such as biscuits or foods from different cultures.
Other ways to build literacy
- Include singing and storytelling in your daily routine eg at bed or bath time or at the park.
- Include some ‘practical reading’ each day eg have them read traffic signs, food labels, menus etc.
- Encourage siblings to read to each other. Younger children usually love having their big brother or sister read to them!
- Form a book club or swap books with friends and family.
- If your child isn’t keen on storytime, don’t force the issue. Try again tomorrow.
- Occasionally, read a book that’s above your child’s reading level to expose them to new words and extend their vocabulary.
- Teach your child to identify a three-letter word, then locate it in magazines or books. Change the word every day.
- Give books as rewards so your child associates them with positive experiences.
- Share the joy of reading by donating books to underprivileged children.
Most importantly, remember reading should be fun. By making it a priority, you’re setting your child up not just for academic success, but a lifetime of reading pleasure.
Sophia Auld is the Editor of ACC’s blog. Sophia has been writing since 2015 across a range of industries and is known for her depth of research and accurate, evidence-based writing approach. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science, a Graduate Diploma of Divinity, and has been working on an MA in Writing and Literature through Deakin University. Two of her children completed online school through Australian Christian College. On the weekends you might find her scuba diving with sharks, bushwalking or hanging out with family. Sophia can be reached at email@example.com.