The Impact of Reading to Children: A Simple Yet Misunderstood Practice
Regularly reading stories to a young child can have an immensely positive impact on their well-being. This practice offers a wide range of benefits, such as providing comfort, fostering confidence and security, encouraging relaxation, and promoting happiness and fun. When a child is read to with full attention, it sends a message that they are valued, and this contributes to building their self-esteem and imagination and enriching their vocabulary. In fact, consistent story time has even been linked to improved sleeping patterns in young children. Surprisingly, not even half of all parents with 0-2-year-olds read to their children every day or almost every day.
Why don’t more parents engage in this practice?
The notion that reading is an enjoyable and relaxing activity is being challenged due to increasingly busy family lifestyles, lack of time and many parents viewing reading to their children as a tedious task. Additionally, the prevalence of screen time has pushed reading to the backseat. Unfortunately, reading is often viewed as a mere skill that must be acquired instead of being recognized as a source of pleasure. This common sentiment is evident even in young children, with only 45% of children aged 0-2 being read to daily. The percentage increases to 58% among 3-4 year-olds as parents attempt to prepare their children for school. However, by ages 5-7, only 44% of parents read daily to their children as reading is deemed a school subject. Parental involvement often entails ensuring that reading homework is completed.
Data shows that the amount of time young children spend on screens is increasing at a fast pace. In 2014, 88% of children aged 0-2 spent up to one hour daily on screens, but by 2019, that percentage decreased to 48%. Meanwhile, the percentage of children aged 0-2 spending 1-3 hours daily on screens increased from 11% to 42% during the same period. Although screen time can provide an effective way for young children to read with supervision, engaging parents in this remains a challenge. This may be due to the fact that 26% of 0-2s use tablets mainly to visit YouTube, as per the data.
Reading to a child as an act of love can foster a strong bond between parent and child, right from the beginning. Reading together provides ample opportunities for discussion, and developing empathy and attachment, which strengthens family ties. This habit of reading with children is a wonderful gift that parents can offer their young ones. Children who develop an interest in reading as a hobby tend to perform well in various subjects and are generally happier and healthier individuals.
Nonetheless, several parents are seemingly unaware of this fact.
While most parents acknowledge the significance of reading as a fundamental skill for their children’s academic success, they may not fully comprehend the value of reading for enjoyment. Specifically, many parents are unaware of the benefits that come with reading aloud to their children, including creating a relaxing environment, spending quality time together, fostering the development of a routine, and promoting a love for reading. If your child is between 10 and 14 years of age, they may like to read the Young Samurai series of books with you.
Numerous early childhood settings offer guidance to parents regarding the significance of shared reading with their children and ways to facilitate it at home. Additionally, many non-profit organisations focused on literacy provide valuable assistance to targeted groups. However, the statistics indicate that the need for help with reading is not confined to disadvantaged families alone. Shockingly, an astounding 55% of all children aged 0-2 years are not read to every day!
It is important to keep in mind that creating a conducive environment for shared reading can significantly impact the enjoyment and productivity of the experience. Optimal conditions for shared reading with children include a calm and undisturbed atmosphere, with minimal distractions.
In order for parents to truly grasp the benefits of reading with their children, it is important for them to experience it firsthand. Through my research at Egmont, we have been successful in promoting the practice of intervention tactics and encouraging regular family reading, leading to changes of perspective for both parents and children. By engaging in shared reading, parents are able to cultivate an appreciation for it as a source of happiness and fulfilment, rather than an added burden to their daily responsibilities. A focus on building reading routines can help families overcome the misconception that storytime is yet another duty to check off their to-do list.
Establishing a reading habit requires repetition and consistency, much like any other habit. Due to the hectic nature of our lives, which often lacks quiet time, parents must create this environment for their children by consciously allotting time and minimising distractions.
Starting early is crucial for parents as it enables their children to have more time to develop their reading skills, nurture their passion for books and integrate reading into their daily life. This simple habit can elevate one’s life experience tremendously.
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