Why Is It Important to Read Together?

The research clearly reveals that parents and caregivers reading to their young children positively influences their overall educational success. The EPPSE research of 3,000 children discovered that reading to children in the pre-school years was one of seven critical 'early home learning' activities that were highly connected to improved attainment for children on school admission, as well as greater attainment at seven, eleven, and beyond. The Millennium cohort study, a nationally representative study of 19,000 children born around the turn of the century, discovered that children who were read to daily at the age of five performed better on verbal, spatial, and nonverbal ability tests, as well as had lower scores for socioemotional difficulties when compared to kids who were read to only once a week. The evidence for collaborative reading is compelling, but what makes the simple act of sitting down together to read a book so effective?

Mother reading to children inside of a library
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

In their study of strategies to engage with families to improve early literacy, Nutbrown and Hannon discovered that parents and caregivers interacting with children around familiar books was "essential to boosting children's knowledge and enjoyment of reading." Pointing to the text as it is read aloud, talking about the tale, and encouraging children to participate were discovered to create a solid basis for children's own reading development. However, reading together is more than just teaching youngsters to read. Reading aloud to kids, listening to them read aloud, and discussing books should continue when a kid can read a book independently. Any primary teacher will tell you that parents and caregivers play an important ongoing role in helping children expand their vocabulary, gain a deeper understanding of the text, and develop inference and deduction skills: the ability to perceive the more profound messages within a book that are not explicitly written in the text.

However, the advantages of shared reading go beyond a child's literacy progress: NCB study for Booktrust found that foster carers who read with their looked after children felt that the practice of reading together had a beneficial influence on their connection. But what is the alchemy, the magical element, that makes books so unique? To learn more, let's look at some great children's literature.

For starters, books may harness the power and beauty of narrative to teach social and emotional principles to even the youngest children. For example, a witch lovingly welcomes a succession of lone animals upon her broom as she flies across a fairy-tale environment in Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's illustrated picture book, 'Room on the Broom.' Because of her kindness and tolerance, everyone has a place on the broom. Generosity, concern, and kindness to others are all essential lessons for young children! These teachings, however, are not labored over; rather, they rest easily beneath the comedic richness of the rhyming rhyme and some great visuals. The story's conclusion occurs when the motley bunch of little animals band together to defeat a frightening dragon, therefore saving the life of the witch who has been so giving and compassionate to them all. When a parent or caregiver reads this book aloud with their child, they may play out the beautiful drama of the moment, indulge in exquisite language, and, when the time is appropriate, discuss the underlying themes in the text.

Book characters may also serve as role models for youngsters in terms of perseverance, tenacity, and a willingness to learn. The popular story 'The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark' by Jill Tomlinson depicts a newborn barn owl, Plop, progressively overcoming his dread of the dark by learning from others. Plop begins with a 'fixed mindset': he is adamant that he does not enjoy the dark and intends to become a daylight barn owl! Nonetheless, with Mrs. Owl's gentle persuasion, the reader sees Plop go further from his nest and learn a bit more each time he leaves the safety of his home branch. Plop's improving talents as an aviator are complemented by this soothing narrative on the virtues of perseverance, maintaining an open mind, and learning from others. In the first chapter, he falls off his branch and crashes to the ground; on the last page, he takes flight with Mr. and Mrs. Barn Owl on his first nighttime hunting excursion. Adults may help youngsters bring out and think about these underlying themes by reading this wonderfully drawn book together.

Books can also give youngsters the chance to ponder larger concerns in life, such as human connections, change, and loss, as they get older. However, this comes with a warning. Because of the emotional power of narrative, books may elicit distressing memories in youngsters who have experienced catastrophic life events. That is especially true for children who are cared after, adopted, or have experienced grief. Michael Morpurgo's 'Kensuke's Kingdom,' a famous work for upper primary-aged children, depicts the tragic separation of a youngster, Michael, from his parents and his contact with Kensuke, who has also suffered a significant loss. It is a wonderfully written story with a heartbreaking ending. Still, the themes of separation, grief, and desire may be difficult for some children to experience for the first time in a school setting. However, suppose foster parents or adoptive parents read and discuss books with children before they are utilized in the school. In that case, children may be able to explore difficult topics in a secure context. Similarly, suppose schools and adult caregivers collaborate closely. In that case, instructors can be cautioned of themes or topics that may be unpleasant to a child and discuss how to address these respectfully in the classroom.

Reading together is good for children's overall development and allows parents and caregivers to guide their children through the wonderful world of books, acting as navigators as they can travel through new landscapes, meet extraordinary characters, or encounter themes that can shape their overall development. So don't pass up this opportunity!

Booktrust resources to support reading in foster families are available.