Reading is the gateway for children that makes all other learning possible – Barack Obama
Did you know that the first five years of your child’s life are the most crucial to cognitive development? This period, known as 'the foundation years', is the perfect time to introduce the fundamental skills that your child can build upon for the rest of their life.
Developing a love for reading from an early age is not only invaluable from an educational perspective but in sparking your child's curiosity and imagination. As adults, most of us will relate to that page-turning feeling of being blissfully lost in a good book; that same engagement is stimulated in children when we read with them.
Books are meant to be enjoyed so have fun with them! Children will mirror your enthusiasm and follow the excitement and suspense of a storyline. Making noises, encouraging repetition, and asking questions will make for a more interactive, enjoyable experience for you and your child.
Why reading is so important in young children?
Literacy is a fundamental skill that parents and primary caregivers can nurture in the early years. Countless research studies correlate reading with enhanced social skills, communication, and language development. It is the home environment where children first adopt the literacy skills which enable them to make sense of, describe and participate in the world.
Key benefits include:
Emotional development: reading allows children to experience empathy as they attempt to understand and identify with characters in stories. In turn, this translates to their broader social development as they begin to recognise their own emotions and those of others.
Psychological development: different styles of books will teach your child the disparity between ‘real’ non-fiction and ‘make-believe' fiction. Not only will this ignite creativity, curiosity, and stimulate the imagination, but encourage their interest in the world around them.
Cognitive development: increased exposure to books will support children’s phonetic understanding, widen their vocabulary and improve their attention span. The simple act of setting aside time each day to sit and read promotes greater concentration, which will prove useful as they move into a school setting. Involve your child by letting them choose the book and encourage them to discuss pictures or phrases. Help more developed children identify punctuation marks; show how we might use exclamation marks when we’re excited or question marks when we’re inquisitive.
Relationship building: making story-time part of your daily routine creates a shared activity over which both parent and child can bond. Finding time amid busy schedules can prove difficult, but this needn’t be an organized event – make it work for you. This might be at bedtime, bath time, on the bus, at the park, whatever fits your schedule. Not only will this foster a stronger relationship, but affirms your love and affection which is crucial in nurturing your child’s wellbeing.
10 Great books to read with your child
‘The Gruffalo’, Julia Donaldson: an award-winning modern classic, this rhyming story of a mouse and monster is a heart-warming tale for young readers.
‘Peace at Last’, Jill Murphy: beautifully illustrated, the familiar noises and repetition make Peace at Last an all-time favourite bedtime story.
‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, Eric Carle: a timeless classic featuring engaging and interactive illustrations. By following what the very hungry caterpillar eats, Carle introduces counting in a way that young children can understand.
‘Mr Wolf’s Pancakes’, Jan Fearnley: a twist on the much-loved fairy-tale classics such as The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, this funny modern take is sure to have young readers laughing.
‘Lulu’s First Day’, Anna McQuinn: featuring colourful pictures that many children will recognise from their nursery setting, young children will learn to empathise with Lulu as she navigates her first day at preschool.
‘The Tiger who came to Tea’, Judith Kerr: a moving story and expressive illustrations, perfect for reading aloud.
‘Aliens Love Underpants’, Claire Freedman: funny and brilliantly illustrated, the rhythmic tone to this story is great for getting your child involved.
‘Daddy Lion’s Tea Party’, Mark Sperring: featuring delightfully illustrated zoo animals, this amusing picture book is full of noise and chaos to engage young children.
‘How do you Make a Rainbow?’ Caroline Crow: a heart-warming story that celebrates love, positivity, and finding colour in every day.
‘The Girl and the Dinosaur’, Hollie Hughes: with stunning illustrations, this rhyming fable explores the power of dreams and captures the magic of children’s imagination.
Let us know in the comments below what your favourite books are, and whether or not you've read any of these recommendations before!