Meghan Keeley shares the importance & benefits of reading with your kids.
I am just going to start by saying that intellectually I think we all understand the importance of reading for children. Okay, so now you might ask how do I read with my child effectively? How many minutes should I read to them, or them to me each night? These are all questions that I have heard, as a teacher, from parents time and time again. Hopefully this article will help to answer some of these and give you some guidance for making reading with your child successful.
As a kindergarten teacher, I would plan for at least one ‘Shared Reading’ session per day that lasts about 10 to 15 minutes. This is what you should aim for as a goal with your child, or children, at home too. Whether that is a quick one after school, a bedtime story, or a favourite pastime – it all counts! Just remember that those minutes are a guideline and they do not have to happen all at once. You can make those minutes add up by trying to sneak in time when it’s available to you. This may seem like a lot when trying to juggle the family schedule, but the rewards truly outweigh the difficulties. According to an article by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (n.d.) they found that:
- Reading to children 3-5 days per week (compared to 2 or less) has the same effect on the child’s reading skills at age 4-5 as being six months older [than their actual age].
- Reading to them 6-7 days per week has the same effect as being almost 12 months older [than their actual age].
- These differences in reading and cognitive skills are not related to the child’s family background or home environment but are the direct result of how frequently they have been read to prior to starting school.
The thing to keep in mind when reading to your child, is questioning. We are trying to build comprehension, inference, and vocabulary by reading to them. Start with comprehension by asking about what they can see in the pictures or ask them to retell you the story. Inference can be a bit more challenging, but is something that should be practised together. You may have to help with figuring out answers until that clicks for them. For example, ask them how a character is feeling in the story. They may say, “happy”. Now this is the most important part – ask them why they think that. You may have to supply them with an answer such as, “I think they are happy because I can see they are smiling.” You can expand their vocabulary by asking them about the meaning of new words when you come across them, and then try to encourage the use of it in your every day language. In my experience, this is especially effective with synonyms such as ‘scared’ and ‘frightened’, or ‘mad’ and ‘angry’. This can also help them learn to express themselves more effectively.
We’ve covered how much we should be reading, the best way and why, but what books should we be reading to them? Rather than give you an endless list of great literary choices, I can recommend one of my favourite authors for young readers is Julia Donaldson. The other thing I can suggest is that you use your local librarian – who can be an amazing resource! You can also go online and check out their recommendations there. Here is a link to one comprehensive list for all ages put out by some libraries in Vancouver.
Happy reading everyone!
– Article by Meghan Keeley. Get to know her below.
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Get to know the author.
Hi, my name is Meghan Keeley and I’ve been gaining a lot of experience working with children ever since I was old enough to babysit! I’ve worked in camps, daycare, as a nanny, and as a teacher. I also studied psychology in my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph. I’ve had a unique journey to teaching by working in the field, and then finally deciding to go to teacher’s college in New Zealand. After graduating from that programme, I was offered a teaching job in London, England and was lucky enough to teach there for two fantastic years! Through all of my experiences, and with a background in psychology, I have become very compassionate about children’s mental health and those with special needs – especially when it comes to education. I hope to continue to support families in a holistic way starting with education. As the Kiwis teach, ‘education is about the whole whanau (family)’. I am happy to share my opinions and international experience to help others. Thanks for reading!