Children who are read to have a better chance at life. There are enough studies – and enough anecdotal stories – about this, for those of us who grew up in homes with books to support the idea effortlessly.
However, great swathes of the South African community do not have access to books in their homes. Their parents do not read them stories every night. This simple pleasure – which has so many ramifications for academic and social success – is denied to millions of children.
Lauren Gillis, founder of Relate Bracelets, a 100% not-for-profit social enterprise which helps to raise money for The Shine Centre, says reading to children is a thread that binds one generation to the next.
“Passing on a love of reading is one of the greatest and easiest gifts to pass on to a new generation.”
On World Book Day, 6 March, it’s apt to key into some of the top reasons you should read aloud to your children:
1. Reading expands your child’s attention span
The most popular videos on YouTube are on average 31 – 120 seconds in length. Even in this short amount of time getting the majority of viewers to watch it to the end is a task. The youth of the modern world struggle with focusing on one task at a time.
Reading stories out loud encourages children to follow the events as they unfold slowly. When they’re able to take in facts, pivotal plot points and development of characters at the pace you’re able to read to them, they are better able to expand their attention spans.
2. Hearing stories read to them expands their vocabularies
Reading aloud to children introduces them to new words and gives them new ways of expressing themselves. They are exposed to far more words through books and stories than they are in everyday life.
The larger their vocabulary, the better they’ll be at articulating thoughts later in life, giving them a head start at high school, in tertiary education and finally in the workplace.
3. Seeing words on the page while hearing a story makes learning to read easier
Before children have begun to learn to read they are starting to relate the spoken word to the written word when they are being read to. Helping your child to develop these connections early on paves the way for easy early literacy education.
Once you begin any story with a child it encourages them to ask questions. Reading creates curiosity and the questions they ask give an adult the chance to help the child expand his or her general knowledge. Children then begin to grasp some of life’s practical and emotional complexities, contributing to them becoming well-rounded adults.
4. It’s one-on-one time
There’s a simple beauty of being alone with your children, enjoying each other’s company over a great story.
Reading involves a warm physical closeness, even often in a classroom, when children are being read to, they are huddled near the teacher. The physicality creates a feeling of safety and nurturing. This in turn, creates an internal association with reading which they will carry into their lives as adult readers.
Well-known South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope has said: “For me, the most important thing is for children to feel loved in many different ways and sharing a story with them is a beautiful way of showing that you care. Of course, the secret is that reading for pleasure isn’t just fun for children, it feels tremendously good for us adults too.”
This article was originally published on All4Women.