We should read to children. We all know that, but the truth is that not all parents have enough time to read stories or fairy tales to their children today. However, reading is a very important activity that should not miss in your child's daily programme, despite the fact that in the first years, it will be the parents who practice it. It is not only about preventing the child from spending all their free time in front of a TV or computer.
Reading is a very important factor in children's development. Listening to stories or fairy tales develops children's perception, imagination and empathy. It enhances their vocabulary, imagination and social skills. By listening to a speech pattern, children build foundation for their own pronunciation, vocabulary and articulation.
Build Love for Books in Your Children
You can start building love for books in your children from a very early age. The child should not get their first book only when they become able to read themselves, but much earlier. You can start reading to your child from their very first days in the world. Naturally, your little one will not be aware of the story at the beginning, but they will listen to the melody of your voice and thus perceive the tone of the story. As the child grows, he or she may look through the books' pictures with you and gradually become aware of words, sentences and even content over time. Listening to articulation is essential for the child to develop correct pronunciation and develop their verbal skills.
Apart from other positive factors, reading together also supports and deepens the mutual relationship between the parent and the child and it also makes for a pleasant bedtime ritual. It has been proven that children who have been read to since their early age perform better at school, learn faster and grasp contexts more easily. Some experts even claim that it is suitable to read to your baby in the third trimester of pregnancy. A toddler and a preschooler have no trouble focusing their attention, they perceive their parents' speech and the text they read. In most children, reading also enhances the ability to listen and stay calm, which is very important for their later initiation into the school life.
Do not underestimate reading fairy tales; they develop and enhance many abilities and they can calm children down in a natural way. Schoolchildren who have been acquainted with reading in their pre-school age do not fear reading and books and they perform much better at school - they learn to read more easily and actual reading entertains them.
How Does Reading Help Children?
- Reading strengthens the bond between children and parents; in ideal situation, both parents participate.
- In toddler age, reading is a great source of fun, games and calmness.
- Reading together is very important for preschoolers, later it makes them perform reading better at school.
- Reading books develops abstract thinking, logic, discernment of cause and effect, estimation of how the story plot develops further, conclusions, etc.
- Children learn proper language, correct pronunciation and articulation.
- Children learn to discern sounds, letters and sentences and they enhance their vocabulary.
- Children discover that books are divided into pages, texts, paragraphs, words, syllables and letters.
- Reading supports curiosity and thoughtfulness in children and it makes them stronger when facing the challenge of reading or learning other things at school.
- Reading helps develop communication skills, concentration and discipline and it makes children calmer.
- It is a pleasant bedtime ritual.
- We can safely say that you can't start reading to your children soon enough.
In their earliest age, children want to hear their mother's voice. Try making your voice intonation and colour (or timbre) warm, calming, joyful and pleasant. Try actively engage all your baby's senses. Point to the pictures in the book, name them and when children start talking as well, look at the pictures and name things in them together. Such pictures and naming helps enhance children's vocabulary, imagination, creativity and it teaches them to understand symbolic expressions of objects. You can also try and finish a story started in the picture, etc.
Children of any age love home-made books and stories they made up themselves whether they are about imaginary characters or stories tailored on the kids themselves, their parents, grandparents, pets, etc. A story needs to be simple and realistic so the child has no trouble imagining it. Try making such a "personal book" with your child.
What Book to Choose?
Smaller children often fixate on their favourite story and they would like to listen to it over and over and over again until they get tired of it. Children like stereotypes, they do not need to strive to make sense of the story at an early age but they strongly perceive the voice, its colour and melody, the rhythm of the spoken word. At the beginning, the subjective feeling of the child is more important than the content of the story itself. If there is the right constellation of interest, mood and psychological preparedness in the child, selecting a book title is usually effective.
Books form our thinking and open the world of imagination to children. We begin with foldout books with big pictures, nursery rhymes and picture books. We read short stories and fairy tales and we tell made-up stories tailored to the child's life. For the youngest children, we select books made of durable materials or later even interactive books which contain various removable puzzle pieces, pop up pictures, etc. Do not let your children just skim through the books by themselves, but teach them respect to books and how to treat them properly. Teach children that we do not doodle into books, tear out pages out of them or fold them.
Preschoolers will appreciate classic fairy tales, older preschoolers may be interested in read story series. In the subsequent reading session, we sum up the plot to facilitate the child's orientation in the story. We select fairy tales and stories according to children's interests.
The Magic of Fairy Tales - Fun with Reading or TV?
Read stories are fun but on the other hand, there are countless other entertainment options for children today. Films and fairy tale stories on TV, on DVDs, computer games, 3D cinemas, interactive toys... But are these options truly beneficial for children? If we take a closer look, we discover not so much. Most entertainment like this is passive - the child only passively accepts information and needs not process them any further.
In a story children listen to, various phenomena - even negative ones such as evil and violence which are terrifying in their expressive form - are covered with symbols. Children know that fairy tale creatures do not really exist and the non-expressive form allows them to imagine these creatures in their imagination in a form they can handle and it is not so terrifying and stress-triggering as it may be in case of filmed or animated story.
The presence of an adult at the reading session reassures children that nothing bad can happen and they feel safe. Time spent together storytelling or reading also provide the opportunity to discuss the story with children. Therefore, we get some space to discuss children's fears and joys; situations and people who may remind them of real characters and places in the story, etc.
A filmed or animated story does not provide such options. The symbolic plane of the story moves more towards reality and the fairy tale loses its protective symbol coating and therefore also its magic, to a certain extent. A child, sitting alone in front of a TV screen, is not able to defend and resist the evil and violence shown in the story. The first consequence of this is onsetting indifference to evil (the body takes this stance against the dose of evil and violence that it cannot handle), the second consequence may be loss of the ability to fight against injustice and excessive fearfulness in the child.
Children deprived of fairy tales reading are also deprived of other benefits. Children need to develop their imagination. Simply put, we may say that imagination works like a muscle. If you do not train it sufficiently and regularly, it shrinks over time. And it may happen that these children will then become adults without imagination or with only little creativity and imagination - and creativity means development, innovation, knowledge and progress.
Listening to stories enhances the ability to listen and concentrate. Verbal interpretation used in schools poses much less of a challenge to children who have practice listening to fairy tales. Human communication is based on how we perceive our counterparts, understand them and are able to walk in their shoes. Reading forms a basis for the later reader literacy.
How to Read Correctly
Several valuable pieces of advice for adults on how to read to children correctly:
- Begin reading from as early age of the child as possible.
- Enjoy little poems, nursery rhymes, children's songs to stimulate the child's speech and language.
- People even need to learn how to listen - this skill is not acquired overnight.
- A good beginning for common reading of parents and children is taking a book with lots of pictures and just a few short sentences on a page. Gradually, switch to books containing more and more text.
- Before you start reading the book, skim through it with your child and try to discuss e.g. the introductory picture in the book.
- In the course of reading, try maintaining the child hooked by asking them some questions.
- Give the child some space to think and do not be afraid to use texts that seem "above" the intellectual level of the child to you.
- Let the listener "tune in" to the story. The mood may also play some role.
- If you read a picture book, let the child peek into it and make sure he/she can see the pictures well.
- Even reading aloud needs practising.
- The most frequent and common mistake is reading too quickly.
- Use your voice, change your tone.
- Keep more active kids or unwilling readers busy with some paper, pencils or colour pencils.
- Set an example to your children. If they see you reading, they will understand that reading is something to enjoy and they will naturally become enthusiastic readers as well.
What Books Interest Schoolchildren Today?
While in the pre-school age, children like various kinds of fairy tales, the school age comes with the love for adventurous stories and stories with a detective plot. Then come the fantasy and sci-fi stories. Girls also manifest preferences towards girl novels throughout their school age.