We all love a good story, don´t we? As adults we enjoy reading because it is a pleasurable and relaxing activity. This is of course true for children too but for them listening to stories is also an essential part of their development.
Hearing stories from a young age prepares the brain for language and encourages linguistic abilities in many ways. Even when young children cannot understand every word that is said, they can still hear the intonation of a story, enjoy looking at the pictures and feel close to the person who is reading to them.
A short story every day might not seem like a big deal to us adults, but it is improving a child’s listening skills and attention span, both of which are important to develop the ability to focus and concentrate. This will be essential at school age to be able to carry out classroom activities which in turn will potentially lead to academic success. By reading to them, parents will be helping their child to achieve at school and this will most probably benefit them for the rest of their life. It is in our hands to help children to become efficient readers as adolescents and adults.
Even though we might think it is only a listening activity, it will also help to develop a child’s ability to express themselves clearly and coherently as the more words and grammatical structures a child learns and understands the better they are able to communicate and articulate their own thoughts and emotions. It is important to ask children questions while reading to them, and therefore give them the chance to participate, give their opinion or ask questions as a means of expressing themselves and feel more confident in their oral skills.
Moreover, books are a huge source of new and varied vocabulary which otherwise would be very difficult to learn. This is even more important for bilingual children who might hear some words only at home or in one context. Stories are the perfect way to introduce vocabulary in another language and to expand the vocabulary of their mother tongue.
From a social and emotional point of view, reading to children is a mutually beneficial experience, providing valuable bonding between parent and child. Bedtime reading is the perfect calming and relaxing activity because the sound of a parent’s voice can be very comforting. Furthermore, children like routines and therefore an everyday bedtime story encourages them to look forward to the moment of winding down and preparing for sleep. Reading together is a chance to enjoy some quality time and also some shared one-to-one interaction and communication that is fun and playful.
Reading helps to develop a child’s imagination from a young age, which is very important in helping to make sense of the world while also stimulating creativity, confidence and wellbeing. Regular reading is beneficial in promoting a child´s curiosity; a new book is an opportunity to think and ask questions, talk about fears, new or difficult situations, different types of behaviour or points of view and it teaches children vital lessons about the world. When reading a new story a child is making predictions about what will happen next and at the same time is learning to infer, an everyday skill we need to constantly put into practice as adults.
Children often have favourite stories that will be repeated over and over again which helps build memory skills and can even promote a child’s independence and motor skills, by encouraging simple things such as learning to turn the pages.
As we can see, there are many ways in which storytelling is necessary for a child´s development and a world full of stories in childhood will lead to an enjoyment of reading for pleasure, which is one of the greatest gifts we can offer them. Storytelling has played a key role in human culture through the ages and this is surely undeniable proof of its importance.