The pressure on parents is becoming increasingly overwhelming. The balance between trying to give children attention, work effectively, manage family affairs let alone a relationship between parents, can be a juggling match many are familiar with.
Add in the pressures of homework and listening to them read each day, and the prospect of reading to them at bedtime when parents understandably feel used up can sadly become more of a chore than a pleasure.
And it is sad. Because not only is reading to children an intimate time that cements bonds of love and security and puts the days’ gripes behind you, it also contributes to the development of literacy, learning and personal skills.
However, a recent report noted that the numbers of children who are read to at the end of the day is dropping drastically. Most parents find it hard to devote the energy to it, let alone the time, with the exhaustion of modern family life.
And the report also found that families are generally less familiar with books, with libraries or bookshops, as the popularity of other media has grown. Some parents even feel intimidated in bookshops they go in so rarely. Increasingly, like older kids and parents, even very young children use online video content rather than a book for winding down with. Books are disappearing from lifestyles.
Maybe that needs to change.
Children’s habits are very much formed by copying their parents, and we all spend increasing amounts of time online rather than with books, so it’s understandable that the children follow our example.
Perhaps it’s time to redress the balance, time for parents to prioritise a habit of reading, keeping books about and most importantly reading to children. For reading to the children, even from very young before they start using language themselves and continuing long after they can read independently, has been shown to impact on their skills later on.
Various studies have indicated that children who have been consistently read to are more skilled users of language, vocabulary, communication and writing. And this in turn can affect their mental development and consequently academic achievement.
Matured reading skills require an understanding of intonation, expression, reading ahead along the line and focus and are all picked up from being read to. It impacts on their concentration and their desire for knowledge. It enhances their imaginative and creative skills. And develops empathy and compassion as they become involved in emotive stories, thus affecting character development.
We’ve tended to look upon reading to children simply as a pleasant pastime that can be discarded or replaced without consequence.
But knowing the benefits outlined above, it may be time to adjust our thinking about it, adjust our planning and family time so that reading to children becomes as important a priority as brushing the teeth, rather than something that’s too readily abandoned.