Reading to Your Child: The Perfect Gift
I loved reading as a child and into my teens. I would go to the library and choose a stack of books and then come home to start reading. Sometimes, I would read a few chapters of the first one, but then I became curious about the next one and then I would have two books stacked on my lap, alternating between the chapters in each. I went on adventures with Pippi and Miss Pickerell, nursed along with Cherry Ames and read about Homer Price. Not one to like ‘scary’ books, I read only a few Nancy Drews to keep up with my friends, but I remember reading many horse books. Novels soon gave way to textbooks. I even worked at the library from junior high until my university years.
As a teacher, I came to realize that reading to children was even more important than I knew. As an elementary teacher, I read to my students daily, especially when teaching grades one, two and three. When I became a mom, I read to my children right from the start. In fact, I was convinced that they heard the stories that I was reading to my class in utero.
My friend gave me a Sharon, Lois and Bram cassette called Mainly Mother Goose when my eldest was born. I played this to both boys while I was changing them and playing with them. I felt the rhythm and the lyrics were important for their language development. The songs still come to mind on a frequent basis. If I want to think of songs to sing as I jog in place, these are the ones that pop up first.
So, in anticipation of writing some articles on reading to young children, I asked my children to tell me their earliest memories of me reading to them. I asked the question and was ready to hear some great responses. Ahhh, I could hardly wait. For sure they would remember all of those times that we cozied up in their beds with me reading.
The older one said that his earliest memory came from around the age of 5 or older. What?! His favourite books were the Babar books. He mainly remembered going to the library and sitting on some pencil chairs and choosing some books to bring home. The Babar books were not my favourites, and I had a hard time even picturing the library that we went to for the first few years. We did spend a few minutes reminiscing over other books and the times that he would read to me as we were driving somewhere.
My second son remembered even less.
Crushed! Were all of those hours spent with books for nought? But research backs up the importance of reading to very young children. There are so many benefits. Here are my top five:
1. Bonding time: This is a great way to spend a few minutes to decompress and spend some valuable time with your child(ren).
2. Book sense: Children learn as they grow from infants to toddlers that books are not there to be eaten and they learn which way books open from and how to turn the pages in sequence.
3. Improved listening skills: Not only do they learn how to listen for longer periods of time and for greater details, but youngsters learn the rhythm and the syntax of how sentences are formed.
4. Increased vocabulary: Authors tend to use words that are not used in everyday situations. Hearing these words often helps to build vocabulary.
5. Increased attention span: From being squiggly worms, children learn how to settle in for longer and longer amounts of time as they share books with you.
So, while my boys may not have remembered those very early years of hours and hours of story time, I can rest assured that they benefitted from all of that delicious time spent together. And now, I am eagerly awaiting the time that I can read to my grandchildren. I have some favourite books set aside in anticipation.
Susan is a member of Na'amat Canada Calgary.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are the writer’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Na’amat Canada.