Reports in the media this week asserted that parents are not making the time to read to their children on a regular basis. They also stated that children are beginning school unable to talk.
So what’s new and why does it matter?
Similar allegations have been made for decades and it is saddening to see that the situation persists despite the increased volume of good quality children’s books being readily available at affordable prices and the torrent of information available in easily accessible media, including information about the importance of talking with and reading to children.
Children who start school with a love of reading and learning have an enormous advantage over those who don’t.
Teachers of children in their first years of schooling are easily able to identify the children who have been talked with and read to in their before school years. These children display a broader general knowledge, a larger vocabulary and fluency with language, a comfortable familiarity with books and an expectation of enjoyment with learning.
Children whose before school years have been bereft of meaningful conversations with adults and lacking in regular and frequent incursions into books, generally present with limited general knowledge, restricted vocabulary, little expectation that books will provide joy and diminished interest in or incentive for learning.
Why then are parents not making the time to talk with and read to their children?
Busy schedules and work commitments make it seem as if there is just not enough time to fit in talking and reading to children every day. But how much time does it take to do that?
Simple changes in routine can open up new avenues for communication without requiring an extra commitment of time.
Here are just two suggestions for easily adding a talk and a book to the daily schedule without requiring any more time.
Sit a child on a stool beside you and chat about the day’s events while preparing the evening meal.
This simple activity requires no further expenditure of time but greatly enhances the child’s communication skills and the parent-child relationship as well. Vocabulary is extended to include words that name and describe foods and the actions that are used in the preparation. Enlisting their help further boosts their sense of self and independence and may encourage a greater willingness to try a wider variety of foods.
The promise of a story at bedtime can help to make the transition from a busy day to a restful night easier and more enjoyable.
A short time is all it takes to share the joy of a story. In her book Reading Magic Mem Fox recommends 10 minutes of reading to children every day. Ten minutes of story time gives far more pleasure to both child and parent than ten minutes fraught with coaxing and struggling. Snuggling up in bed for a special quiet story time with a parent eases the child into relaxation and a slowing down in preparation for sleep.
In addition to strengthening the child-parent bond, a love of books and an enjoyment of language and story is being nurtured; a love that can be maintained throughout one’s life.
How do you fit talking and reading into your busy schedule?