There’s a lot more to reading than just learning to sound out the letters you see on a page. Kerry McArthur tells us why it’s important to instil a love of reading at an early age.

We all know that reading to your toddler is important, but not many of us understand the many reasons and advantages of reading. Reading in the early years creates a firm foundation for learning as your child grows older. Developing a love for reading and books is paramount for setting those vital building blocks of learning in place.

Give your child a head start

Reading to your young child develops a love for knowledge and language. Many studies have shown that reading to your toddler helps to prepare them for preschool and then for primary and high school in later years.

Reading is used in every subject that your child will eventually undertake, and often, if a child is battling to study a subject or understand a concept, it can be traced to their inability to read fluently.

Fluency in reading is developed, not learnt, so you need to read to your child daily, and ultimately encourage them to read to themselves every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

Grow their language skills

Speaking in normal language (not baby language) is important and needs to be done as often as possible. But reading is equally important. The spoken language we use with a young child is often repetitive and simple, whereas reading exposes them to words and language structure that normal speaking won’t. While they may not be able to understand all the words yet, constant exposure will develop this knowledge.

Reading is a key part of developing language fluency and an understanding of how to string words together correctly.

Developing the whole child

Reading doesn’t just expose toddlers to words: it also stimulates their imagination and senses, as well as their visual and auditory processing. As they hear the words, they are seeing the picture on the page and imagining themselves in the story.

Reading to them also assists with their concentration at an early age and teaches them to sit for longer periods of time.

In addition, your child’s emotions will also become part of the process. Reading will teach them empathy in a way that we can’t do personally. They will start to identify with the characters, feel what they feel, and by so doing, start to understand emotions better and begin to relate to them.

Encourage a thirst for knowledge

When you introduce different topics to them, through reading different kinds of books, your child will start naturally wanting to extend the range of their information. They might even show an interest in particular topics, and want to hear more about them. Encourage this by starting with picture books, sticker and activity books and moving onto stories and books containing more specific information.

Caring for books

While you are teaching your toddler about reading, and a love of reading, it’s equally important that they learn how to care for books.

Teach them to always hold a book with two hands that have been washed and are clean. Pages should not be bent or folded over, and they should never hold a book by the margin or spine.

Give them a cute bookmark to use, or – even better   – give them a template to colour in and decorate, then laminate it and allow them to use it in their book. Above all, read, read, read. Children who love reading will love learning.

Book suggestions

To help you choose the best books  for your little ones, here is a list of some of our must-reads to put on your reading list, if you haven’t already.

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats

Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown

Madeline (series)
by Ludwig Bemelmans

The Cat in the Hat
by Dr Seuss

Winnie the Pooh
by A.A. Milne

The Gruffalo
by Julia Donaldson

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle

Oh! The Places You’ll go
by Dr Seuss

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
by Michael Rosen

Where’s Spot
by Eric Hill

The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein

Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr Seuss 

The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams

The Little Engine That Could
by Watty Piper

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