Parenthood is wonderful – the fun and joy that a child brings is unlike any other experience in life. It also brings with it many responsibilities, like feeding and clothing your child. Sometimes, though, fun and responsibility combine in activities that are both good for them and fun for you both. Reading is, or should be, one such activity. The process of finding a story that your child enjoys and reading it to them is extremely satisfying, but it has many benefits besides that. One of the most important is linked to the senses – reading aloud and hearing words/language is great for children’s development. Here are four ways this key sensory experience benefits little ones and tips to help them read more.

Reading improves cognitive ability

There is now much research to suggest that reading increases your child’s cognitive abilities – their rational thinking, logical skills and conceptual understanding. Some research even suggests kids’ IQ increases when read to regularly. By hearing stories, their brain gets used to auditory learning which is very helpful in later life. To unlock some of the more cerebral benefits in reading, try the following:

  • Finding books with varying themes and ideas. This will give children different situations to think about and help broaden their understanding of different topics.
  • Read books that help your child become familiar with sensory and other concepts like colour, sounds, numbers and seasons. The more practice they have in understanding these ideas, the better.
  • Use books with different textures and fabrics to introduce sensory knowledge and understanding too. Head to your local library for lots of exciting options.

Being read to helps improve important sensory skills

Reading also encourages sensory skills like speaking and listening. For example people who have been read to as children tend to be much better listeners in later life. This isn’t just because they are used to auditory experiences so can listen to stories, lectures or speeches; it’s also because they listen to other people in conversation and actually hear what they have to say. This is an invaluable skill and definitely one that should be encouraged. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Try using different voices for different characters when reading to your child, and getting them to try the voices out too. This will help you to make sure they’re really listening – and it’s fun, too!
  • Ask your child questions about the story at the end to help determine what they really heard.
  • Test your child’s listening skills by setting them a challenge afterwards, like a scavenger hunt. You could task your little one with finding three objects related to the story, for example.
  • Reading encourages important sensory exploration skills away from the ever distracting visual overload of technology.

Reading is a sensory experience that helps improve the bond between parent and child

Increased bonding between the reader and child is another great thing about this activity. There is something extremely intimate about hearing a book being read to you and this can also help the child enjoy the sound of their parent’s voice. A few more tips:

  • Give everyone in the house a chance to read stories to the child so that they have a chance to develop bonds with the whole family.
  • Include grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings in the routine to help the child feel closer to them, too.

Reading is fun!

Most importantly, reading is ultimately about pleasure – stories are fun and listening to them being read is a sensory pleasure! Instilling not only the practice, but the love of reading in your child at a young age will be crucial for their enjoyment of this activity in later life. Make sure to show your enthusiasm for reading, as this can be infectious. Here are some ways to make sure that reading is a treat to look forward to, not a chore:

  • Remember that it’s OK to stop reading a book if your child isn’t enjoying it. Don’t force the issue, just move on to a different story.
  • When you finish a book, ask your child what they enjoyed about reading it, and share what you liked about it as well.

There are so many potential benefits to reading with your child. Just sit back and enjoy a good story together. Remember, reading has so many sensory benefits like helping your child get used to the sound of your voice and encouraging them to hear and listen well. So find a good book and enjoy!

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