We sometimes talk about reading and writing as though they were natural human skills. They are not of course; no caveman ever read a book. They did paint, draw and fashion symbols as forms of graphical communication, though, so perhaps we humans are naturally drawn to communicating in all of the ways our body, mind and access to resources allow. Reading and writing are socialised skills; they are transmitted from one generation to the next. Adults teach the children, the children grow to become adults, they in turn teach their children and so on. It’s an active process and we need to expose the children to reading materials aa much as we can.
When the first baby of the household is an only child, making time to share books with them is easy and is often an integral part of everyday life and of the evening and bedtime routine. If baby two is born into the household when baby one is a preschooler, reading can easily continue to be a lovely way to spend quality time with our oldest child whilst simultaneously introducing baby two to books from a very young age.
As children grow, their routines and schedules become more complicated and family life becomes a revolving-door as we make way for the school run, play-dates, after school activities, homework and family time. Reading time can become much harder to schedule regularly, or at least, it can become an easy activity to leave out. Children have to bathe, be fed, go to school and sleep. Reading doesn’t lose its importance, but it can easily be pushed out by more pressing, time-sensitive factors.
There usually comes a point when your child can read independently. At this point it can feel that they are no longer in need of parent-child reading time, but to lose this would be a real shame. Older children who read with their parents receive so many benefits from it. The more reading a child does, or the more they are read to, the greater their vocabulary and their sense of the structure and grammar of written language. When a child has a story read aloud to them, they are able to comprehend beyond their current reading level. Stories create great opportunities for opening up conversations and discussions too. Reading to our children also exposes them to a wider range of stories and genres. There is only so much Harry Potter, Charlie and Lola and Jacqueline Wilson that impressionable young minds should be exposed to in isolation!
Whatever age your school age children are, reading together creates time for connection, conversation and learning together. When you create the space and time for reading, you communicate to your children that it is worthwhile and valuable. If you make it an enjoyable, connected and interesting time for them, then you may just plant the seeds of a lifelong love of stories and books.
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