child reading

Reading books is not just about learning how to read

The Children’s Book Council of Australia is about to launch Book Week for this year with the theme being, “Books Light Up Our World”. Books are such a great source of learning for children, and in keeping with this year’s theme, books for children are about widening the experiences of their world.

When children enter their first years of school, a big focus of their learning involves reading nightly readers for homework. Although this is an exciting thing at the beginning of the year, readers can quickly become a mundane, and chore like task. Learning to read in primary school has a big focus to achieve academic competency, increasing vocabulary, and developing the ability decode words (that is, using groups of letters to develop sounds). Developing these skills, of course, is very important to focus on in early primary school, but it is also important to recognise the other great things children can gain from reading books.

Listed below are examples of the great things children can learn from books and some tips for parents to help promote these.

  • Books tell stories and stories bring people closer together. Relating your child’s experiences to the character’s experiences in the book can help create a sense of normality and validation of the thoughts and feelings. It can also widen their world to experiences yet to come. Spending time in close proximity and in a relaxed environment with your child can also develop and strengthen the child-parent bond.
  • Books can foster creativity and imagination. Books for younger children are more about the pictures than the words. An idea could be to read the pictures in the book together instead of the words. As adults, we too can start to find reading a mundane task, especially if we have read the same story over and over again. Tell stories like you mean it! Use dramatic voice tones and facial expressions to convey the story to your child. This can help engage the child and assist in widening their imagination. This can even build a stronger connection between you and your child as it shows you are interested in your child’s world of interests.
  • Books can be used to build social competence and emotional resilience. When reading, sometimes we can be quick to focus on the message or the ‘moral of the story’. Break the message up into smaller pieces and start a conversation around it. Work with your child in uncovering how the characters might be feeling and thinking and what might have caused this to be so. Helping your child to recognise facial reactions and body posture to help decode characters’ feelings and the impact the characters’ behaviours have on others. Predicting what might happen next can help build critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities too.
  • Books widen interests and knowledge about the world. If your child is only into dinosaurs, then get your hands on any books with a dinosaur in it! Don’t be worried if your child has a very restricted interest here. Interests can always be widened with the introduction of a new book that may introduce a new topic. For example, you might start with a fiction book on dinosaurs and expand this interest to non-fiction books…which leads onto volcanos….or forests…or the sea etc. The list is endless.
  • Experience books in different ways. Some books are for learning new facts, some are for learning how to read, some foster make-believe, fantasy and imagination, and some are just to be enjoyed to relax. Widen your child’s experience of reading in different environments, whether it be at the park, on the trampoline, or in bed. Read books on the iPad or e-reader, or perhaps get your child to write their own story.

Book week runs from Saturday the 22nd of August to Friday the 28th of August. Perhaps you could get involved with events run during this week through your child’s school or local council library to help books “light up their world”.

Author: Emma Trifiletti
Psychologist
Sensational Kids

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