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Vicci on our team loves nothing more than telling stories to her kids, inspired by her parents telling her stories when she was a young girl. Here, she explains the importance of reading and storytelling far beyond getting little ones to sleep...
One of my favourite childhood memories is being read a bedtime story by my Mum and Dad. Most nights it was my favourite story Sammy The Seal, and to this day, 30 years later, my parents can both recall the story word for word.
Now that we have children of our own, my husband and I have become the storytellers. I can recite a variety of Peppa Pigs tales, stories about when a Flamingo Plays Bingo, when there was Room on The Broom - the list goes on. Reading to our children is a very important part of our family bedtime routine and something we have done for our children since they were babies.
In recent years, reading has started to play a bigger role in our lives. My daughter is beginning to learn to read independently and we are using stories and books to help my son develop his understanding of communication and language. As this development has occurred, it has dawned on me that something I love to do as a pastime plays a really important role in the growth and development of our children.
Reading to our children and children reading independently helps to reduce stress. According to studies carried out by Mindlab Internal at Sussex University, reading for six minutes a day can reduce stress by up to 60% in adults and there is no reason to think that this is any different for children.
Reading enables us to engage in thoughts and can propel us into a world miles away from reality. This distraction can help to move a child's focus away from their worries and help them to immerse themselves in the magical depths of their imagination.
It can also be a method for teaching a child how to cope with types of emotional stress. Only recently we sadly had a bereavement in the family. This raised a lot of questions for my daughter, who was six at the time. Death was a concept she found difficult to understand and interpret, which was causing her anxiety.
After doing some research I found that there were a number of books written to help children of her age cope with loss. We settled on Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr. This is a gentle book which relates to the death of a family pet. However, it gave my daughter a relatable way to comprehend death as a concept and it relayed to her that over time grief can ease.
This is only one example of when reading can help deal with emotional stress. Reading can identify and describe many real world problems and solutions to our children, while the child is in the safety and comfort of their own home. Reading can make various social and emotional issues easier to comprehend and mange when faced with them in the real world.
Our children, from as young as a few months old, start to learn from adults reading to them, right through to when they learn to read independently.
Through listening to a caregiver read, a baby can begin to learn and understand different sounds, the art of communicating and the importance of language. They will learn how to listen and as they grow and develop will begin mimicking the sounds and develop their communication skills. Not only that, but books for babies are colourful and often have fantastic illustrations which help them to start learning about colours, shapes and the world around them.
As our children develop, we can begin to change the books we read to them. The concepts and topics the books cover gradually change throughout the years, becoming more detailed with fewer illustrations. This helps develop our children’s understanding of language itself and provides them with an introduction to a wider vocabulary. It helps our children understand more complex words and phonics, and the use of language which we rely on to communicate throughout our lives.
If we introduce reading at a young age, it can help children develop a lifelong love of reading. My daughter, as she has started to move through primary school, has been determined to read for herself. From a young age she started questioning and trying to read road signs, signs in shop windows, the cereal box, my WhatsApp messages, and so on. Her reading has developed immensely throughout the years and she now loves reading independently. She reads about a variety of things: horses, how the body works, space and how to use my Amazon account. I love seeing her learn, grow and develop, learning amazing facts about the world around her. I can’t wait to see how this continues to grow throughout the years.
Stimulates Imagination and Creativity
Reading completely absorbs our minds as both an adult and a child. We not only are reading the words, but interpreting them, giving them meaning and developing them to create our own ideas based on the information.
Similarly, when we read fiction to our children about far away planets, pirates and flying cars, we allow them to develop their own ideas and create a new limitless world inside their imagination. It opens the doors to a place where anything is possible.
Children retain this and use these magical worlds in their own imaginative play, this stimulates creativity and allows them to develop in an arena where anything is possible. We can’t underestimate how important this is;
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein, 1929.
In a world that has become increasingly busy and one where we are constantly bombarded with information, finding time without distraction for our children is essential. Reading provides us with a perfect opportunity to bond.
This is one of my favourite benefits of reading to my children. I find that it gives me an opportunity to share an experience with my children. While reading we are both immersed in the same world, in the same moment. We can share the experience the book provides, we empathise or celebrate with the characters and chat about what we think might happen next.
Reading allows us to be fully present and bond with our child - it holistic experience. It gives us time to make our child the centre of our attention. It is a time to interact, make eye contact and connect. It is also a time they can sit on your knee and get some cuddles, giving them comfort and making them feel safe and loved at the end of a busy day.
Reading has came full circle for me. To this day the bedtime story is still one of my favourite times, my role is just different. I hope these times develop into one of my children’s favourite memories, when they are my age, and hope they have the same love of books and reading as I do.