The more children observe adults reading, the more they’ll want to imitate that behaviour. 

WHETHER it’s a sentence from the sports page or a street sign, a poster about a missing kitten or a recipe from a cookbook, it’s important that young children see parents reading aloud what interests them.

This is especially so when children are aged three to seven, a stage when the brain is getting ready to begin to read, says child psychologist David Carey. 

He was speaking after the launch of the Bord Gáis Energy Little Readers campaign, which has 5,000 books for children across Ireland to read for free.

“The more children observe adults reading, the more they’ll want to imitate that behaviour. 

"They’re curious about how this wonderful, all-powerful adult can do something they can’t do just yet but their brain is getting ready to do. 

"Both in terms of biology and psychology, they want to read too,” he says.

Starting your child reading early is a gift

When reading to children Carey advises turning the pages slowly, drawing their attention to the pictures (“because the pictures tell something about all those funny little shapes underneath”) and to the cover and author’s name.

Don’t overlook the importance of letting children ‘read’ stories to parents – using the pictures to make up the story stimulates imagination.

“Children get the idea that a book is something to hold in the hand, that you start at the front and turn the pages in a certain order, you go slowly and the pictures have to do with the story.”

When you encourage children to feel and smell the pages of a book, this creates, says Carey, a sensory bombardment in the brain that further cements what will become a love of reading.

Reading stimulates a child’s imagination and creativity and opens their spirit to the wider world around them. Reading, especially with a parent or guardian, creates templates in the brain that make the child feel loved, nurtured and emotionally secure, says Carey. 

“Books can give children a great sense of calm, comfort and security. The greatest gift you can give a child, after the gift of love, is the gift of reading.”

Little Readers books are free for all under fives whose parents/guardians are members of the Bord Gáis Energy Book Club.

To register and apply for a free Little Readers book, visit www.bordgaisenergybookclub.ie 

The offer is limited to a maximum of two books per household. 

Bord Gáis will also donate a book to charity partner Focus Ireland for every young child in emergency homeless accommodation across Ireland.

TOP TIPS

* Make sure your child hears you reading aloud.

* Bring children into the world of books — library, bookshop. Go to the kids’ section — it doesn’t matter what book they pick up.

* Read to your child and let them read to you.

* Don’t get overly formal and demand that your child spends time reading. Reading isn’t something you prescribe.


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