Child experts agree that reading with your baby or young child is really important for their early development.
The special, unrushed time you spend reading – or just looking at books – together will help you build a close parent-child relationship as well as developing your child’s communication and social skills.
Moreover, reading is key to learning. Research consistently shows that children who enjoy reading do better at school in all subjects.
Why reading to a young child is important
Fostering your child’s love of reading and books will help their development in many ways:
- Children who are read to from a young age become familiar with language, words and sounds.
- Stories can help a young child to understand events and emotions in ‘real’ life, e.g. a death in the family, going to school.
- Stories and illustrations help to spark a child’s imagination and encourage their curiosity.
- Looking at the words in a book will help children develop early literacy skills.
- Stories help a child to understand the difference between reality and make-believe.
- An early love and respect for books will stay with your child throughout their life.
Settling down to read
Storytelling doesn’t always have to take place immediately before bed. Find somewhere quiet without any distractions and turn off the television and your mobile phone. Sit close to your child and, if they are old enough, ask them to choose the book and turn the pages.
Once a child is familiar with a story, encourage them to tell you the story as you’re looking at the pictures together. Depending on your child’s age, you could discuss the story with them afterwards and talk about the characters, their actions and emotions.
Although the number of public libraries has reduced in recent years, there are still libraries in most sizeable towns (and sometimes several). Find My Library will help you locate libraries near you (and their opening times) or visit your local council website.
Libraries are free to use and most don’t charge under 16s for overdue books.
If you live in a rural area, there may be a mobile library that stops near you. You will need to be a member to borrow books.
Many libraries hold storytelling sessions during school holidays. If you’re looking for tips on how to spin a great yarn, why not go along and learn from the experts?
My digital library is full of e-books, e-magazines and e-audio books. There is no borrowing charge, you just have to join the library.
If you’re stuck for ideas, Who Next ...? will help you choose your child’s next book based on authors they already like.
Every child in Wales receives two special Bookstart packs which are handed out by health visitors before the child turns one and when the child is 27 months.
BookTrust Cymru has lots of ideas for reading to your child, including online resources and a booklet aimed at four to six-year-olds that’s available in 27 languages.