Reading books to children prepares for academic success

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Here are just some of the many benefits of reading books to children:

•Helps to develop the bond between the parent and the child.
•Provides a shared family frame of reference
•Helps a child to understand the purpose of the printed word.
•Builds a child's vocabulary beyond what he is able to read for himself, and provides the background for a new reader to recognize new words he is decoding because he knows what they mean.
•Helps a young child learn the connection between the written and printed word.
•Entices a child into an exciting world of learning and entertainment
•Helps a child absorb great amounts of information about the world and how it works, especially if parents lead children into discussing what is read.
•Develops listening skills.
•Gives the family an alternative to the media for entertainment.
•Helps the child develop a taste for literature.

All official research shows that the early years involve the highest rates of learning, and the habits formed at a young age will stay with them for a lifetime. It's therefore a perfect time for reading children's books that educate and entertain.

Children of any age can benefit from experiencing books on a day to day basis, and it's always best to make time reading to children each and every day.

A good selection of quality children's books is a very important part of the whole literacy process, but not all children's book are recommended.

Grabbing a children's book or two at a supermarket check-out is no guarantee of quality, and children may become bored or turned-off reading by some less authoritative works on the market.

Independent local children book stores will often offer a wide selection of good quality children's books from leading children's authors and book publishing houses, usually broken down into sections according to age suitability.

Reading books to children 0 - 2 years of age:

Children are never too young to enjoy books, and for babies it's not just about reading the words. It's also about enjoying the interaction with the parents as the child sits with them and enjoys the attention.

Babies feel comforted by a parents voice, but also finds interest in the brightly coloured, simple images and pictures featured in many baby books. They enjoy listening and respond well to books with a simple text or good rhythm.

Once old enough to sit up and handle the books themselves they'll enjoy "touchy-feely" books that stimulate the senses with different textures.

Board books of washable vinyl or washable cloth are particularly useful for babies who enjoy a good chew !

Lift-flap books help in the development of a child dexterity, and button activated sounds and melody books add sound to the experience.

Finally, bedtime stories are a great way to help send babies off to sleep, and help to develop memory skills during repeated tellings of favourite tales.

Introducing reading to babies sets them on the road to the wonders of the written word, and help provide a useful grounding in listening and reading skills as they grow.

Reading books to children 2 -3 years of age:

Toddlers also love the bright colours and images, as well as the repetitive text of stories that focus on familiar everyday events. At this young age, books do not have to include words in order to be enjoyable.

Toddlers have the imagination to take picture books and create their own stories around the various pictures in the book.

Toddlers often enjoy looking at the same book, or having the same story read to them over and over again as they anticipate what is on the next page. They also particularly enjoy child books with rhythmic or lyrical words.

Energetic toddlers can be quite rough when handling the books themselves, and it is best to have a few hardboard books for them to play with. They also enjoy the interest offered in lift the flap books and pop-up books, but be prepared for some to be torn to shreds !

It's also a good age to learn the basics of language and numbers, and reading along to stories and counting books will aid their understanding of words and numbers.

Favorite characters, such as those from television programmes, are a particularly good way of teaching the basics in fun ways they will enjoy.

Reading books to children 3 - 5 years of age:

Preschool children are often excited to read and learn about the wider world outside of their home, school, or environment.

They enjoy listening to slightly more complex texts with more in-depth characters and still enjoy good rhythm and some repetition.

Stories with a sequence allow children to predict, repeat sounds, and make word plays.

Preschoolers should experience a variety of different subjects, such as fairy tales and fact-filled non-fiction books.

Books on people from different times or other countries arouse their natural curiosity, and encourage a hunger to learn more about the subjects featured.

Books about the natural world, from the familiar animals and wildlife around them to the more exotic jungle animals are also subjects that stimulate children's minds.

Pirates, mermaids, knights and fairies are some of the most popular subjects for little boys and girls of pre-school age.

Educational books are also a good idea at this young age, and titles that introduce an understanding of the alphabet and counting, telling the time, and even those that provide an easy introduction to a second language can be the books they'll want to read the most.

Personalized children's books are most appreciated at this age. Produced with the child's name and other details included in the printed copy, it makes them and their friends or family part of the exciting story. Great for building self confidence, and a perfect way to encourage them to begin learning to read by themselves as they'll already know at least one of the words in the book !

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