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Reading to your child matters

In my view: Published in “Nursery World” 18.6.09

By Sally Goddard Blythe, freelance consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the pioneering Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester

The recent poll commissioned to mark National Family Week showing that just under half of all children are missing out on a traditional bedtime story is a travesty of our times.

Reading to your child involves more than simply telling a story. Long before children learn to read they learn to love the music of language, the tonal, rhythmic and dynamic aspects of speech, which are exaggerated when read out loud. Listening to stories, often repeated many times, helps develop memory, including a memory for the phonological components of the written word. As children listen to stories, they also learn to match sounds to pictures and word shapes. This prepares the brain for the formal aspects of learning to read.

Desire to read begins with a love of stories – the colour and familiarity of characters, excited anticipation, the shape of the story line, and the pictures that the story creates in the mind’s eye – the stirrings of imagination. Story time is also important because it involves one-to-one time between parent and child when both share in the same activity. Sharing the same experiences have been shown to increase the level of a powerful hormone involved in securing attachment and strengthening close social bonds. Being read to also increases a child’s vocabulary and reading comprehension, which has benefits in childhood through to old age.

In my practice and in schools around the country I regularly come across parents who have never read to their child. Although we live in difficult times, it is important to remember that some of the most essential ingredients for a happy childhood are free – fresh air, space, friends, family, reliability and time spent together. Just 10 minutes a day spent reading to your child will help them not only at school in the years to come but may also give them a long, happy and active life. Surely, this is what we all want for our children.

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