We know that children and young people who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have better mental health than those who don’t.  We also know that reading encourages children to dream about their future and, according to research by the National Literacy Trust, can greatly boost their average lifetime earnings.

But developing this enjoyment and love of reading isn’t just the responsibility of schools, and it’s never too early to start! Babies are born sociable and come into the world with a willingness to communicate and learn.  and it’s the experiences in their early years that shape their future social, communication and learning skills.  Did you know that the majority of brain development occurs in the first three years of a child’s life? Babies need stimulation and attention to make the most of this opportunity and this is not as daunting as it may first sound.  Stimulation comes from simple, everyday activities such as talking, listening, singing and sharing books together.

Storytelling and reading books together are easy ways to have regular talking time. Storytelling introduces new words, structure and language patterns that help form the building blocks for reading and writing skills. Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and gets parents and carers talking regularly to their children.

Books introduce children to the exciting world of stories and help them learn to express their own thoughts and emotions.  During the Covid-19 pandemic we know that there was an increase in numbers of children turning to books as a way of escaping to another world, to help them forget about what was going on for a little while.

Reading to and with children shouldn’t stop when they start school, regular reading at home has a huge impact on academic attainment too. Parental attitudes, behaviours and beliefs play an important role in influencing reading motivation and achievement in young children, helping them to develop positive reading habits and attitudes towards reading.

If you are a parent of a child please, please, please read to them every day, even for just 10 minutes – it really will give them the best start to life!

If you support families with children, please encourage them to develop a regular reading habit – the libraries have lots of fabulous books waiting to be taken home and shared.

Allison Potter