Reading: doorway to all learning
In spite of the electronic revolution, books are thankfully still firm favourites with all ages. Even though adults may read more words on screen than on paper, we still start with, and continue to gravitate towards, books. We still believe that books are a valuable part of a child’s life, and that they teach more than just the act of reading. Before a child can read to him or herself, and often well beyond, parents spend time each day reading to their children. So why do we do it?
Reading to children is a special time, a time for snuggling up together and shutting out other distractions; a time to really devote to each other, to nurture relationships. When we read to our children, we’re giving them time and telling them how much they matter to us.
Reading with children, from an early age, is important to show children how books work and how they communicate information. The fact that each page has words, each word has a particular meaning, text is read from left to right, and books from front to back – these things are all learned at a very tender age. Beautiful, colourful illustrations help pre-verbal children to follow stories and to link the pages with the words and stories that are being spoken. Started early, and enjoyed together, it’s fun and easy to give children a lifelong love of books, reading and learning.
Children’s Fiction Books
Stories are powerful methods of communication and learning tools. Stories are what we use to make sense of the world. As soon as children are read to, they love the whole experience. We start with fiction – made-up stories – and many of us never leave! The earliest, and some of the best, children’s stories often involve animals doing very human things; the normal, everyday things that children will recognise – going to nursery, cooking, playing, napping. Children accept that, in stories, ducks go to school and take naps, just as they do. Other stories have characters doing things that are not part of everyday life – stories of fairies, wizards, magic and other adventures. Children instinctively seem to know that these stories are invented and are told for their enjoyment.
Children’s Non-fiction Books
As soon as children become comfortable with stories, they want to expand into the world of reality, to understand what things are and how they work. Non-fiction topics that delight include the animal kingdom, history, the human body, space and planets, geography, culture and customs around the world. The possibilities are endless. This is a great stage to capitalise on – if children are interested, we only have to pick up the books and they will ask the questions.
Reading and questioning
Perhaps the best part of reading with children is its two-way nature. When children are read to, they will always ask questions – why is that happening, what does that word mean, what’s going to happen next? If we answer their questions, then reading becomes an active experience and children benefit hugely from the participation.