In today’s blog post, we answer the question, “Why read books with your children?” We explore ways to engage with books and talk about the benefits (Hint: a prime opportunity for developing language through shared reading!). 

Reading books with your children is one of the best ways to encourage their language development from an early age.  There are a number of benefits to shared book reading, including the following:

  • Improved vocabulary

  • Stronger parent-child relationships and increased bonding

  • Improved emergent literacy skills, including phonological and print awareness, and

  • Improved cognitive development.

Shared book reading also allows children to enjoy books that they might not be able to read on their own and provides struggling readers with necessary support. Reading books to your children helps improve their vocabulary by exposing them to new words in different contexts. Children learn best when they are interested and when parents are responsive to them, so shared book reading is the perfect opportunity for a child’s vocabulary to grow. 

What does shared book reading look like?

Shared book reading can look different depending on your child’s age. Early language development benefits significantly from reading to babies as early as 8 months old (and younger). As your child gets older, you can begin to follow a routine:

  1. Introduce the story to the child — talk about the title, picture on the cover and author. Talk about what your child thinks the story might be about.
  2. Read the story out loud, using appropriate tone and emphasis. Encourage the child to talk about the story and make predictions about what they think will happen. Pause and ask questions about the story.
  3. After reading the story, ask questions and connect the story to your child’s experiences. You can then have your child tell you the story in their own words. 
  4. You can also do follow-up activities such as games or crafts related to the story.

Strategies for shared book reading:

  • Pause and wait: While reading the story, pause and give your child opportunities to make comments or ask questions. Giving them extra time also helps them to think about what you are reading and find the words to answer questions you might ask.
  • Have a positive attitude! Children are more likely to enjoy and benefit from shared book reading if it is something you can both enjoy doing together. 
  • Share what you are thinking aloud while reading the story so that your child can learn from your model and do the same. 
  • Pay attention and notice what your child is looking at and talking about. Following the child’s lead allows the adult to respond to what the child is interested in. It’s okay to go ‘off-script’ and ignore the text if your child is most interested in a detail on the page!
  • Support your child’s understanding of new words by connecting them to words they already know.
  • Label actions and objects in the story, and give your child the opportunity to do the same.

Tips for success:

  • Choose a spot with a quiet environment, limited distractions, comfortable seating and good lighting. Position the book so that you and the child can both see it.
  • Have different kinds of books available to read, so that you can teach your child about a variety of concepts and increase their knowledge of the world.
  • Make it a fun routine. Shared book reading should be a time for fun, enthusiasm, laughter and learning.

We spoke about our  New Year Top 10 Books in an early blog post, and you can also check out this link for a list of great books for shared reading and have a chat to our team about our personal favourites!