1. Quiet time
Getting to sleep can be difficult for some children. They need time to wind down from the stresses and excitement of the day. A bedside lamp, curtains drawn creates a snug environment that slows the heart rate and helps prepare the body for sleep. My daughter has an imaginary horse called Snowflake and if she's feeling a bit wound up I encourage her to dream up a new blanket or some other decorated item for her dream horse. These days, Snowflake is pretty spoiled! He's got everything a horse could possibly need.
Children have worries. They need to feel safe to confide their concerns to you. By excluding every distraction, (TV, computers, video games, the news etc) you offer something very precious to your child - your undivided attention. This sends a clear message, straight to their heart: "You are important to me. I am here for you." In these quiet moments before bed, a closeness develops and is maintained that gives your child a sense of security and love. You can say 'I love you' until you're blue in the face, but it's when you put aside your time that it really means something.
3. Expressive Language - Vocabulary
When you read aloud your voice is modulated, that is, it rises and falls. You naturally emphasize parts slightly louder or softer to enhance the understanding of the story. You act it out. When my husband first started reading to our little girl he sounded a bit like a robot, poor guy! Now he is very entertaining. She watches him, enraptured. Hearing us read to her has expanded her spoken vocabulary, because she will stop us and ask if a word is unfamiliar. This helps her utilise these same words in her own speech, giving her more tools to express herself. A larger vocabulary gives the child power over their speech and their thoughts.
Being exposed to the written and spoken word improves vocabulary but also spelling and reading skills at school. Hearing a word pronounced correctly goes into the child's 'data bank', so that when they come across that word in their own reading, they can recognise it, or figure it out. The more words they are used to seeing, the easier spelling tests become. Visualising, or creating a picture in the mind, is a natural part of reading. This is also a valuable skill for learning to spell, as we must remember what words look like, if they aren't easy to figure out by their sounds.
5. Academic success
A reader is smarter, more articulate and confident. Why? Because they are more familiar with their own language. They have a greater understanding of a wide range of topics because they have read about them. They are able to use clues such as context when they come upon an unfamiliar word. They can tackle literacy tasks at school more easily because they have better language skills.
Readers use their imagination when they read to visualise the story and characters. This enhances their ability to memorise, holding thoughts and pictures in their head, adding to them as they read more. TV does not help this develop because it provides everything - the picture, the sound, the action. A viewer isn't using language themselves. This makes for a lazy brain. The ability to hold thoughts and concepts in short term memory is extremely important for learning, especially for concentration. Reading a plain page with black print forces the brain to create the action inside it, using more of the brain's fabulous abilities and increasing its power.
7. Accuracy and understanding
During reading time at night you can take turns reading out loud. This provides the opportunity to correct their accuracy, adding to their personal word bank. This then increases comprehension, (and enjoyment!). In 25 years of teaching literacy, this is the one tip I give parents that makes the most difference. Encourage your child to READ. The first step is reading to them.
8. Morals and values
By choosing good quality reading material you can teach your child the important morals we all must learn in society. There are thousand of excellent books for children, but some of the best are the classics, which teach kindness, bravery, compassion, cleverness, wit and strength. Reading these stories provides you with an opportunity to discuss why it's wrong to steal or abuse animals, the importance of The Golden Rule etc. Books are a powerful, non-intrusive, fun way to show your child how to become a happy, healthy human being.
9. General Knowledge
Reading about subjects you knew little about can also increase your own general knowledge as well as your child's. In our house we've covered topics I hadn't thought of, such as fossicking and caves, space and the universe, the human body systems, how food is grown and many more. This increases a child's confidence to understand the world around them and be able to make good decisions for themselves.
10. Culture and history
Reading opens up a whole new world, of foreign cultures, as well as your own. An appreciation of the diversity of human culture is important to a child's sense of self and where they fit in their community and the world. Being sensitive to the culture and values of others is also important. There could be many interesting aspects to your own family history that would otherwise go unnoticed if the topic didn't come up in reading. Children need to have a clear sense of their own identity. Reading family stories is another wonderful way to keep treasured memories alive.
I wish every parent was able/willing to read to their children. It would do a lot towards eliminating illiteracy and by association, poverty. Knowledge is power. And the first step to knowledge is being literate. Read to your child. Open up the world to them! Make them feel special and loved. And it's never too early to start.
For more information on helping your child to read, click here: Montessori