Studies show that reading for pleasure makes a big difference to children’s educational performance. Here’s how you can get your child off to a great start.
Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.
In fact, reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.
What difference can I make as a parent?
You can make a huge difference! Parents are the most important educators in a child’s life – even more important than their teachers – and it’s never too early to start reading together.
Even before they're born, babies learn to recognise their parents' voices. Reading to your baby from birth, even for just a few minutes a day, gives them the comfort of hearing your voice and increases their exposure to language.
Building vocabulary and understanding
Learning to read is about listening and understanding as well as working out what’s printed on the page. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a wide range of words. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen, which is vital as they start to read. It’s important for them to understand how stories work too. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word, they’ll hear new sounds, words and phrases which they can then try out, copying what they have heard.
As children start to learn to read at school, you can play an important role in helping to keep them interested in books. Find out what interests them, help them to find books that will be engaging and fun, and spend time reading the books they bring home from school together.
My child’s too young to start reading yet. How can I point them in the right direction?
Make sure that your child is familiar with language and books so they can see how enjoyable reading is. Some of the things you can do include:
- reading aloud to your child, talking about the words and pictures, and sharing ideas about the book
- reading yourself – children who see adults reading, and enjoying it, are much more likely to want to read themselves
- surrounding your child with books – you don't need hundreds of books at home, but go to the library or bookshop regularly to borrow books, spend time together, browse and make choices. In this way, reading becomes a habit.
Most importantly, talk to your child. Spend time with them, doing simple activities (like cooking and making things). As you talk about what you’re doing, you are helping them to learn new words. Later, when they see words written down, they’ve already heard them and know what they mean.