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Why reading in early years counts

Early learning

Reading to infants and toddlers produces more benefit than you’d imagine, in fact, reading is essential for later school and life success says Goodstart’s early childhood educator Lisa Palethorpe.

Research conducted by the University of Queensland has clearly shown that an important determinant for a child's success at school is how much they are exposed to reading from a young age.

Ms Palethorpe discusses why reading is important.

Reading helps a child’s cognitive development

Ms Palethorpe said research in early childhood development had long demonstrated the benefits of learning to read early in life.

“Reading with children at any age, earlier the better, is absolutely key to success,” Ms Palethorpe said.

“In the first five years, a child’s brain is developing rapidly and at a faster rate than any other time of their life.

“A child’s brain is constantly forming connections which are strengthened by activities like reading,”

“Reading to your child and then teaching them to read promotes healthy brain development that lasts a life-time.

“Reading stories also is a catalyst for a child’s imagination and curiosity and enables them to learn the difference between real and make-believe.”

Reading develops a child’s oral language

Ms Palethorpe said a child’s oral language is partly developed through their participation with literacy.

“Reading exposes a child to pictures, letters and words, shapes, sounds and names,” she said.

“It helps immerse a child in oral language as reading the words aloud gives meaning to  written language.

“Reading builds a child’s vocabulary and interesting illustrations and rhymes can encourage them to talk about what they are seeing and thinking.”

Research shows that children with good oral language experience later school and life success.

Reading helps a child’s emotional development

Reading books can bond parents and children because of the precious moments they create from snuggling close to reading and sharing the learning experience together.

“Reading always tends to be a one-on-one or small group experience.”

“Snuggling up with a book allows reading to become a nurturing activity that can bring a parent and child closer together.

“These moments are rich for learning and supports a child’s emotional development.”

She said child also gained valuable communication skills by hearing or reading about the interactions between characters and through contact with parents during story time.

Raising Children Network states that reading or telling stories was also a safe way to explore strong emotions, which can help children understand change, as well as new or frightening events such as going to the dentist or hospital, starting school or making new friends.

“In the early years, reading and bonding with your child over books are the building blocks for your child’s later social, communication and interpersonal skills.”

Ms Palethorpe is national manager of Early Learning Capability at Goodstart. The Early Learning Capability Team develops high quality, evidence-based professional learning materials to improve early childhood practice and knowledge of children’s development, learning and wellbeing across Goodstart’s network of 645 centres.
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