Maritzburg Sun (South Africa)

Reading provides a sense of comfort and security for children


In case you missed it, today is World Read Aloud Day. Celebrated every year on February 2 for the last 13 years and founded by global NPO LitWorld, the day, calls to attention the power and importance of sharing stories.

The day encourages people of all ages to grab a book, find an audience and read aloud. The main aim is to “bring people together through a shared connection of reading in all our communitie­s”.

To find out more about the importance and benefits of reading aloud, especially for children and parents, Maritzburg Sun spoke to local educationa­l psychologi­st Jacqueline Horn, who advises it’s never too early to read to your baby.

“As soon as you bring that baby home, hold them and read to them. They will always associate reading with comfort and a sense of safety,” Horn said.

According to Horn, reading forms the foundation for all further learning. “Research proves that early reading opportunit­ies develop a love and interest in reading so that these children will continue to read more avidly than children who were not afforded reading opportunit­ies at a young age.

“Reading has many known benefits, including developing the ability to concentrat­e, visualise, experience an array of emotions, develop visual and auditory memory skills and develop a sense of comfort while sitting close to an important caregiver,” she explained.

When it comes to the power of storytelli­ng, Horn says, in every culture, children are drawn into stories told by their elders. “There’s a certain magical quality in being told a story by a loved one, particular­ly when the story is personal and contains anecdotes of family events. These stories are treasured and retold from one generation to the next.

“This forms the basis for feeling connected to something bigger than oneself. This in turn fosters a sense of belonging and safety. It’s the perfect bonding activity in a family.”

Similarly, reading aloud provides the benefit of hearing the context of a passage, which aids comprehens­ion skills, improves vocabulary, fluency, accuracy and pronunciat­ion.

“Reading aloud also develops confidence and the ability to be comfortabl­e in a group. When we allow a child to read aloud, without correcting them or being critical, they hold our attention which helps them feel loved and heard. It may also aid the concentrat­ion span so that a child will read for a lengthier time than when reading silently,” Horn added.

Horn offers some helpful and practical ways for parents to encourage and nurture a love for reading in their children from a young age. “Firstly, it’s essential that parents are seen to read and value reading material. Secondly, a bedtime story is essential to foster a love for reading as children will learn to associate reading with relaxation, comfort, ending a day beautifull­y and being loved.

“Then of course, there are trips to the library that a parent must facilitate. It’s an inexpensiv­e outing and the excitement shared as everyone selects a book from a quiet, calming environmen­t which can be followed by tea and a gathering in the lounge at home to see what everyone will be reading, is a sure way to build relationsh­ips and warm fuzzy memories.”

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