May is Child’s month, but also the month when there is an emphasis on family. Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 9 will also be celebrated in Jamaica as “Read Across Jamaica Day”. It is therefore very fitting for us to pause and highlight the importance of reading to and with our children as parents and caregivers. The literature is littered with numerous reports on the fact that parent involvement is a number one factor in predicting early literacy success and later academic achievement. As parents, we often pass off the importance of our roles in the development of our children’s academic skills, especially reading, onto school. Some comments which we may hear are: Why should I read to my child? They do enough of that at school! I am not a teacher! On the contrary, as a parent, you are your child’s NUMBER ONE TEACHER! Children need their parents to act as models through daily reading practice in an effort to successfully navigate through early literacy skills and build on later skills. In this article, I would like to highlight three main reasons why it is important and in fact valuable, to read with and to your children!
- Reading exposes your child to rich language and diverse content. When reading books with your children, they are exposed to a wide vocabulary and more complex and diverse ways of expression, rather than the mundane ways of communication they may experience on a daily basis. Therefore, books allow parents to expand the language environment as they become their children’s first and most important teachers. Parents are therefore able to immerse their children in rich and varied language, sparking interest in information, building imagination and even developing the cornerstones of interest in topics such as science and math. It is therefore a great idea to expose children to not just fictional material, but also non-fictional books.
- Reading with your children helps prepare their minds to succeed in school. The benefits of shared reading know no age limits. Babies are soothed by their parents’ voices; school children reading to parents can show their new accomplishments or seek their parents’ help and books for toddlers can help children get ready to learn to read. Children are used to listening to language for its meaning, but reading demands that they also pay attention to the sounds of language, helping to build phoneme and phonological awareness skills. When reading to your children ask them about rhyming words, homophones, similar syllables, etc. This helps to build a good foundation in language.
- Reading with your child can build family ties and allow for bonding.Reading with your child is most beneficial when parents take it as an opportunity to converse with their children through topics and ideas that come up in the books. Reading together is family time; it is fun time, cuddle time, a time to share your passions, perspective, and your values but also a time to listen. It creates a time for children to express themselves as well as an opportunity for parents to show their willingness to listen. Try it today! Build a conversation around a book and experience the joy of having a conversation with your child!
Written by Kellie-Anne Brown-Campbell, Licensed Associate School Psychologist