Never too early to read
A LOVE for the written word has always been encouraged in young children, but many parents have now begun to ask, how young is “young” and when should they start reading to their child?
Creator and writer of WOW Books 4 Boys, Angela Bueti has read diligently to her two sons since the day of their conception.
“I read to them both when they were actually in my tummy,” she said.
“And then from birth, my husband and I read every day with our children, and we still do.”
The 43-year-old Kawana mother said she started out reading nursery rhymes and songs to sons Oscar and Archie and then moved on to picture books as the boys grew into toddlers.
“Reading teaches them about the rhythm of spoken language and develops their understanding of words,” she said.
Associate Professor in Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast Michael Nagel has extensively studied and conducted research into early learning and human development.
He said findings have shown the earlier parents start reading to their children, the better.
“Reading and speaking to your children is important for developing language,” he said.
“As they get older they learn to associate printed words with the words that you are speaking.”
Prof Nagel explained that the sooner a child understood that letters symbolized sounds, the sooner he or she read.
In a 2010 study conducted by the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington, Patricia Kuhl found that language played a crucial role in the first year of a child’s life.
She said that when children heard language and saw the movement of their parents’ mouths, they then started to develop a relationship with language that helped to build their neural architecture.
“This tells us that speaking with your children in the early stages of their life is important,” Prof Nagel said.
“Even before they understand the meaning of words.”
With proven long-term benefits, Prof Nagel said parents had several reasons for taking the time to sit down and read with their kids.
Former early learning teacher, Margaret Higgins has spent most of her life watching young children in the class room.
Up until last year she was a Year 2 teacher at Brisbane’s Kelvin Grove State College, where she could easily spot a child who loved to read.
“As soon as they walk in the classroom you can tell,” she said.
“It’s the way they interact with books and their confidence with reading.”
Now the owner of online children’s book store Swinging Tales, Margaret said that children who regularly read with their parents had greater attention span.
They also retained information easily and were active listeners.
“I am a strong believer in that it’s never too early to start,” she said.
“The earlier you start reading with children, the greater the rewards.”
Although we appear to live in an era of kid geniuses, Margaret said most young children aged up to four were not developmentally ready for intense book learning.
“At this age it’s more about getting across the enjoyment and the love of reading,” she said.
“This leads to children wanting to pick up a book and read it.”
Angela Bueti agreed that fostering a love for books was equally as important as teaching young children correct grammar and spelling.
“We need to place just as much importance on developing a love of reading, as we do on learning,” she said.
Angela said that after years spent with their noses behind books, her boys now understood what reading could do for them.
“They choose reading as an activity, which a lot of children don’t,” she said.
When all is said and done, the easiest way to get your child to pick up a book was to simply set a good example.
“There are studies that indicate kids often copy their parents or caregivers,” Prof Nagel said.
“Kids engage with reading when they grow up in an environment where literacy is valued.”
TOP TIPS FOR READING WITH CHILDREN
1. Choose a time of the day that suits you and your child
2. Make sounds and voices for different characters
3. Babies like the soft, gentle rhythms of your voice
4. You don’t need to read the book cover to cover every time
5. Make it fun and interesting for both you and your child
KAWANA LIBRARY’S TOP 5 BOOKS FOR UNDER-5 READERS
1. My Five Senses, by Margaret Miller
2. Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell
3. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney
4. Kisses for Daddy, by Frances Watts and David Legge
5. There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake, by Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland