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Fact and fiction: the benefits of reading heaps to kids

Victorian libraries want parents of youngsters to don their eyeglasses and get reading aloud.

Their new campaign, 1000 Books Before School, aims for parents to recite this many tomes between childbirth and the commencement of school, to instill a love of reading in their children.

But will nightly page turning achieve this? National manager, early learning capabilities, at Goodstart Early Learning, Lisa Palethorpe, answers with a wholehearted ‘yes’.

She described the benefits of reading to children as “absolutely enormous”, as it furnishes them with a broad repertoire of oral language and reading skills.

In addition to this, she referred to reading as a “social process”, as it shapes readers’ identities.

Whilst she believes reading a variety of kids’ books, from classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar to more modern marvels like The Gruffalo is valuable (“it’s important for children to hear lots of different language”), there’s also a place for re-reading old favourites, so long as three books are read each day.

“Children get a lot of joy out of hearing the books they love being read to them, over and over,” Palethorpe affirmed. “It gives them predictability, from which, in turn, they gain confidence in themselves as readers.”

And it’s not just about the words, their patterns are just as crucial. Ever wondered why kids’ books tend to include rhyme and repetition? These aid children’s phonological awareness, including their oral skills and early literacy.

“If you pause at certain places, children can start sharing the story themselves. This can enhance their comprehension skills”, Palethorpe added.

To further promote comprehension, “Ask questions, too, like ‘If we were to see Hairy Maclary down the street when we’re at the butcher shop, what would you think?’ ”

In addition to its cognitive benefits, she noted an oft-overlooked nurturing aspect to parent reading: since it’s usually a one-on-one activity, it’s conducive to snuggling, an important element of parent-child bonding.

This assertion is supported by Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report, 5th edition, which found that children aged 6 to 17 predominantly loved reading with mum or dad for the closeness it fosters.

So, the bottom line on reading is that story time’s a good thing. And, even if you’re exhausted, soft monotone speech won’t cut it. Be tunefully audible in your expression. Don’t rush, nor lag. This may sound trivial, but it matters. Palethorpe explained that to encourage a zest for reading in young listeners, readers must exude passion. Simply put, a flat affect “doesn’t have the same magic”.

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