Beyond simply reading the pages of a story to your child, it is important to follow their interests and ideas, pausing for conversation whenever and wherever possible. Some stories can be read in one sitting, whilst others may take days depending on how many learning opportunities present themselves for discussion! By prompting your child to think about story events, from the morale choices of characters and the words that they use to the structure of the story (I.e., what happened in the beginning and middle, what might happen at the end?) children will develop their comprehension, that is, their understanding of what has been read to them, allowing the opportunity for them to participate in ‘reading’ with you.
Some of the key benefits of reading to children include:
- Exposes children to rich and varied vocabulary, benefiting their understanding and ability to communicate.
- Helps children to learn about the world, from recognising and labelling objects to understanding how, where, when and why things happen.
- Provides a space for children to voice their ideas and formulate questions, developing self-confidence to express themselves.
- Helps children to learn that print carries meaning and is read from left to right in English and Spanish.
- Provokes children’s imaginations, inspiring artwork and role plays with their friends.
- Allows you to bond with your child, as you share favourite stories, discover new ones and impart knowledge, based on your own experiences and views.
Reading for Pleasure
Reading for pleasure is essential to inspire a lifelong love of reading. From relaxing before bedtime with a story, to engaging in active and fruitful discussion, reading benefits our wellbeing and cognitive development. Children enjoy stories for many reasons beyond the words we read to them, such as colourful illustrations of well-known characters, hearing their loved ones use funny voices and joining in with songs, rhymes and repeated refrains.
This is an essential part of developing children’s ‘comprehension’ – a key area within literacy learning from the EYFS.*
As children grow, they begin to learn letters and sounds and start to recognise letters in print, before blending them together to read short words (such as ‘c, a, t, cat’). This is essential for children to develop ‘word reading’, another key area within literacy learning from the EYFS. *
When children begin to learn how to read words, their attention is purely focussed on decoding what they can see – much like when we read new words in another language as an adult, whereby we are trying so hard to make sense of a word and pronounce it correctly that we don’t necessarily enjoy the process or understand what it is we are reading. It is important to remember to be patient with children at this stage, as they may need to sound out every letter in short words before blending the sounds toread the word – and quite often they will struggle to explain what they have read as a result of this mental fatigue! Through gentle support and encouragement, children will gain confidence in reading words, especially as they transition to ‘big school’. Remember – word reading, and comprehension are very different but equally important aspects of literacy learning!
Explaining Tricky Concepts and Words
Sometimes when reading stories with your child, you may come across concepts or words that can feel tricky to navigate.As adults we question, should I read the word ‘naughty’? Should I draw attention to the character that shouted at their child and took their toy away?Should I tell my child why the mummy is described as a ‘widow’? If your child can actively converse with you and ask questions about these things, then the answer is yes.
It may feel uncomfortable to approach, but children are naturally very inquisitive of the world around them and it is important to open discussion in an age appropriate, sensitive and honest manner. If you are unsure how to explain something to your child, pause and ask them questions – “Is it kind to use the word naughty? Why not? What can we say instead?”, “Do you think it was a good choice for the grown up to shout and take their child’s toy? How do you think that made their child feel?”, “widow is a word that describes when a grown-up’s husband or wife has died. This may be because they were very sick or elderly, and their body stopped working”. For children to not only develop their literacy learning but be able to understand and form views of the world around them, we must be mindful to not shield them indefinitely from tricky concepts and words. Please let me know if you would like support to explain tricky concepts and stories to your child.
Suggested Reading for Different Ages
There are many recommended lists online which can be accessed for different age groups. Below are a few links which maybe useful (please note, there is some cross-over of suggested books – meaning those are essential!).
Books for EYFS | 100 picture books to read before you are 5 years old.