Say it out loud: reading to your kids is a brain-booster
It's also a powerful way for children and grown-ups to bond, and builds a 'priceless' foundation for success at school
If you read aloud to your child before you left for work this morning, you’re on point. Today is World Read Aloud Day, and for the 10th year in a row literacy warriors around the world are calling on all parents and caregivers to acknowledge the major boost children get when they read a book with an adult.
Arthur Attwell, founder of non-profit organisation Book Dash, which draws on the skills of expert writers, editors, designers and illustrators who donate their time to create free local books for SA children, says: “One of the best ways to grow a child’s brain is to read aloud to them, and to talk about the pictures and the story together. They absorb much more than you think. Reading together is also a powerful way for children and grown-ups to bond. Reading to a child each day can dramatically boost their development,” he says.
The organisation has given away hundreds of thousands of books, while also making them available to download for free on Android.
According to Read Educational Trust, reading aloud with children it is also “a great way of connecting” with them and “forms a priceless foundation for success at school and on the journey of life”.
However, surveys show that only half of parents read to their children daily, and less than 10% of parents read to their children from infancy.
Also, while 90% of children may be able to read, the most daunting statistic was revealed by the Progress In International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2016, where an alarming 78% of Grade 4 pupils could technically read the words in front of them but could not draw meaning from them.
Then there is the problem of access to books.
A recent study at New York University found that innovative book distribution programmes that provide free books to children in low-income neighbourhoods, combined with supportive adults who encourage reading, can boost literacy and learning opportunities.
“Both physical and psychological proximity to books matter when it comes to children's early literacy skills,” said lead author Susan Neuman. “Children need access to books in their neighbourhoods, as well as adults who create an environment that inspires reading.”
She and the researchers said that reading aloud to children has been touted by experts “as a key to developing skills early in life that translate to later academic success”, and that a position statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics called for parents to read aloud to their infants starting from birth.
The researchers point out, however, that access to high-quality books is the first barrier in the “reading aloud” approach for parents.
This certainly resonates in SA where socio-economic inequality affects every aspect of a child’s life.
While Book Dash is creating free books, the Read Educational Trust has created high-quality book sets for sale, the profits of which are pumped back into the organisation to assist in low-resource communities.
The Read Aloud Box Sets, grouped into sets for three different ages (four to seven, five to eight, and six to nine) contain 12 books of stories all set in Africa and all of which revolve around children and animals discovering the world around them.