For many, reading is just another chore which has to be factored into the bedtime routine along with bathing, brushing teeth and the inevitable ‘I don’t want to go to bed!’ mantra. However, managing to accommodate this worthwhile activity into your daily routine will leave you with a sense of well-being and could even help you to switch off and relax after the rigours of the working day.
According to a 2009 study by the University of Sussex, reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68% (The Telegraph, March 2009), that’s about the same amount of time as it takes to read a picture storybook to your child.
If you need to inject a bit of fun back into your reading routine, or are just starting out at reading to a child, then the following list of tips could help…
- Don’t wait for your child to reach a certain age before reading to them. Start now!
- Read aloud to your child until they are at least eight years old. Your child will benefit from listening to you read long after they have learned to read books by themselves. Aside from the bonding part of this activity, it will also help your child to learn valuable lessons on word pronunciation.
- For younger children, books with rhyming text, bright illustrations and novelty value (such as a light mechanism or pop-ups) will help to maintain your child’s concentration.
- Read to your child daily and, if possible, at the same time every day. Reading a story at bedtime will also help to calm your child at the end of a busy day.
- Choose books that are above your child’s reading level but at their interest level.
- Vary the subject matter of what you read to your child. In addition to fiction, try reading reference books, comics or an interesting story from a magazine or newspaper.
- Find books that match your child’s interests and hobbies.
- As your child gets older and becomes a confident reader, select a book at their reading level and take turns reading to one another.
- Above all, have fun! Sharing a book with a child will enrich your relationship, will help you to forget about the stresses and strains of the workplace and is something that you will reflect on fondly when they have flown the nest.
What a calmer world it would be if we all allowed ourselves a few minutes a day to focus on nothing but the words and pictures of great children’s stories.
Dan Graham, Editorial Director, Top That Publishing (& father of eight)