When thinking about a child and their development, the phrase 'children are like sponges' comes to mind. Only now, having had my own little monkey running round for 18 months, do I truly know exactly what that phrase means. George takes in everything, copies everything and smiles and giggles at just about everything (including random strangers that he will point and laugh at in the supermarket, yet somehow they all just laugh back and start up a conversation with him. If we did that, we would be in big trouble!).
In the evenings, we ask George to go and choose a book from his bedroom for story time. Very often, as he runs down the hallway with a grin across his face, the same book comes out with him. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a new one! But it got me thinking; at the age of 18 months, how does he have such an interest in a particular book and how, when I have hidden that very same book in different places on the bookshelf, can he still find it?! The more I thought about this the more I realised we influence everything in his little life.
There are so many websites on the internet to trawl through and with so much advice, who do you really listen to? One thing they all do agree on is that reading and sharing books supports the development of their growing brains and research shows that it's never too early to start enjoying books. So having read through a lot of research here are my top 5 reasons for sharing stories and books with your little one:
It helps you to bond with your little one. This is an obvious one but probably the most important. By sharing a text with your little ones, you get the chance to just be. Cuddled there together, looking at pictures and words on a page. They are comforted by the sound of your voice. You don't even have to read the book. I have learnt this with George. Sometimes, just looking and talking about the pictures is enough for him to learn something new.
They learn to know reading as a fun activity and can help to stop reading being a battle when they reach school age. As a teacher, I come up against children who won't read. I also come across children who won't put a book down! The National Literacy Trust suggest that young people who read outside of school were 13 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age. Wow! This is something that can be helped by reading from a really young age all the way through primary education.
It encourages language development. Your little one will listen to you talk to them about the pages and pick up some new words and before you know it they will be copying you. They will learn about colours, animals, vehicles all without you blinking an eyelid. You won't notice as you read because as adults, we seem blinded by the magic of every word on the page (I know I am) but they will gather all that information and store it for when they need it next.
You can actually read what you want (within reason!). As a baby, they are not fussed what the story is about and the understanding of what is happening won't be there. So if you want to catch up on the latest news, share a newspaper with them. Want to read about football? Show them a magazine with the colourful images whilst you can enjoy the content of the words. It really doesn't matter what you read, as long as you are doing it together.
Children are like sponges! This has to be the biggest reason for me. Whatever you read, whatever pictures they see, they will take it all in and learn. The will soak up every little part of the experience and remember this the next time. They will begin to copy you, point at the pictures they remember and laugh and giggle at the funny bits. Before you realise, they will be reading the book to you!
George's recommended read
With the hundreds of books we have accumulated in our house, I thought it would be nice to feature one of George's favourite books. I know this book inside out, back to front and upside down, and George knows where every type of vehicle is hiding on each page. Can you tell this is a regular!