Reading is one of the most important and valuable skills that a person can have; that is why it is essential for us as parents and carers to read regularly to our children and be good role models as active readers. Books introduce children to the exciting world of stories and helps them learn to express their own thoughts and emotions. Reading skills enhance writing skills, both of which are critical building blocks for education, but don’t leave it until your child goes to preschool or starts primary school! It is vital that we lay the foundations for these skills early in a child’s development. What you do today can have a long lasting effect on your child’s academic development. You can encourage literacy with fun, everyday activities. Fitting in just 10 minutes a day to read your child a bedtime story builds memory skills, language development and means your child is more likely to learn to read without problems. Don’t limit yourself to just fiction either: instead read a variety of books, and as your child gets older, introduce comics and magazines, which provide a fantastic platform for building discussions with your little one!

It is also important for our children to see us reading for pleasure. It could be books, a kindle, magazines, newspapers…..this enables us to be good “reading role models.” It is particularly important for boys to have good male “reading role models” so use dads, granddads, uncles, and older brothers to read to your sons. Our children need to see reading as something enjoyable and not just as a “homework task” or something that they just do in school.

When you do read to your child, feel free to deviate from the story. They will get much more from the experience if you point out details about the pictures, ask them questions about the story, or ask them to guess what will happen next. These techniques will help with comprehension, creativity and inference skills once they get to school.

Libraries form an important part of our communities for all age groups. They are fun, educational and free. In addition to unlimited books to choose from, your local library probably offers storytime and other activities to keep children interested and the more you go the more children will see reading as a natural way of life and they will grow up loving and appreciating reading and books.

Another “reading tip” is for your child to make their own book. My 4 year old son has just finished making his own version of The Gruffalo. Ably assisted by Granny, he has created a book that he is incredibly proud of and he has loved sharing it with the rest of the family and his teachers in school. Encourage your child’s creativity and help them write a simple book based on their story ideas. They can then cut and stick pictures from magazines, family photos or do drawings that go along with the story.

Sharing books with babies and young children is a fun way to share talk. Talking and listening to young children develops their social and literacy skills and reading aloud is a good way of encouraging 2 way communication. Babies love the sound of their parents’ voices and reading aloud to them can help soothe and comfort them, especially if the books have pictures of their favourite characters! Reading together gives babies and young children the chance to respond. A gurgle of anticipation of a favourite story or a smile of enjoyment shows that young children like to communicate and do so from a very early age.

Books are an important source of new vocabulary and will therefore help your little one learn new words, especially when they hear them said/read aloud. Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and helps to build the foundation for language development.

Written by Lorraine Banks, owner Talking Tots Talking Tots Billericay Brentwood Upminster. Talking Tots reinforces all of the principles outlined above and classes include activities to build vocabulary, encourage narrative, word associations, and sound recognition. Talking Tots classes are also offered throughout Essex. Visit our website for more information and details of classes. www.talkingtots.info