More than half of kids aged 3-8 years say that reading is their favourite pasttime with a parent, ahead of watching TV together and playing video games.
Research by Disney/Pixar Cars also found 76 percent of children wished their mum or dad read to them more frequently. So if you’re a reluctant storyteller, of feel too time starved to schedule in a daily read, here’s why it pays to open a storybook.
At a glance
- Reading to your children is proven to help improve their language and literacy skills
- It's ok to feel awkward but make yourself do it as there are so many benefits
- Be persistent even if your child doesn't want to be read to, listening is a vital skill that they must learn
Why read to your kids?
If the knowledge that reading to your kids before bed will help them to sleep better doesn’t encourage you to start reading, it’s worth knowing that storytelling is a powerful learning and emotional resource for children. “Not only does it promote bonding between you and your kids,” says child psychologist Richard Woolfson, “but it will also help improve their language and literacy skills.”
Research from the Institute of Education backs this up, showing that children who are read to on a daily basis not only do better when they start school but also have less behavioural problems in class.
What if I feel self-conscious about reading aloud?
Many parents feel awkward about reading aloud but the advice from experts is simple - don't be! Firstly, research shows a child loves it when a parent reads a story to them, and secondly nobody else is listening so you have no need to feel ill at ease! To help yourself feel comfortable:
- Remind yourself your child is not a critic
- Make yourself do it. The more you read aloud the more comfortable you’ll be with it
- Sneak a read of your kid’s books when he/she is not around it will help you to get used to the stories before you read them aloud.
What if my child is not interested in being read to?
Learning to listen to stories is a skill that children learn over time. The more you read together the more used your child will be to tuning in to the stories. To help stimulate your child’s interest Richard Woolfson suggests, “Making sure the book is appropriate for your child's age and understanding. Your local library or bookshop will be able to give you good advice on books for your child’s age.” If your child is very reluctant to listen choose books that tie into their interests, and favourite films and TV programmes as this will capture their interest.
How to read to your children
- Make the context appealing as well as the book itself. For example, tell your child in advance that you are going to read together and it's going to be really good fun
- Turn off all other distractions in the room such as your mobile, the TV and/or music so you have their full attention and they have yours
- Give your child a choice of two books and let them be the one to choose the story for the night
- Try to do character voices and sound effects to maintain their interest (71 percent of kids love this)
- Read aloud every day at the same time so your child expects this activity
- Let your child participate and get involved with the characters in the story to encourage interest in reading.