Literacy is a vital skill in our society yet it is a struggle for many children and adults. Reading with your children from birth gives them the best start for their brain development, early language and literacy skills.
Many studies have shown that reading to children before they start school makes a significant difference in how well they learn at school, protects them from later reading problems, supports their vocabulary and cognitive development, and facilitates bonds between adults and children.
Parental reading to children at age 4 to 5 has positive and significant effects on reading skills and the cognitive skills of children aged at least up to age 10 or 11. So a small investment of 3 books a day now can make a big different for many years!
But what books should you read to your child?
Preschoolers love books that have humour, adventure and characters they relate to. Your preschooler is growing up and stories will help them understand new experiences and feelings. Be guided by their interests. Stories or factual books are all valid reading material. Books are a great way to discover the world. All children love predictable books, books that have a pattern, a predictable plot and lots of repetition.
When you read to your child, run your finger under the words from time to time as you read them. This will teach them that you read from top to bottom and left to right.
What do preschoolers need to know to help them learn to read?
Early literacy skills include:
- Being able to recognise and name letters of the alphabet.
- General knowledge about print, for example, which is the front of the book and which is the back, how to turn pages of the book.
- The ability to identify and manipulate sounds.
Parents may also stimulate reading by their children through
- buying children’s books
- taking them to public libraries
- talking about reading through the day and in everything you do
- giving the example of reading yourself.
Some tips for when you are reading aloud:
- Think about the words the author has chosen, and the rhythm, repetition or fun they have built into the story. Try to emphasise those elements.
- Sound words – make them ‘sound like the sound’ so “clickety-clack” is sharp and short, emphasising the consonants, or ‘whoooosh’ is a long dynamic word.
- Take your time, ensure each word is separated and easy to understand. Compared to when a child hears a song and learns the rhythm but can’t always distinguish each word, a child being read to should be able to hear each word in the story.
- Follow cues from the words ie ‘up’ or ‘down’, ‘quiet’ or ‘loud’. Have your voice do the same.
- Have fun and enjoy the special time with your child!
More online resources:
Reading to Young Children: A Head-Start in Life? Guyonne Kalb and Jan C. von Ours, Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series, Working Paper No. 17/13, 2013