Learning to read: why are books and stories important?

Reading with your child gives them a love of stories and books that will stay with them for life.

Mother and children reading a book

Introduction

It’s never too early to start reading to your child – even young babies enjoy being read to! Reading aloud prepares your baby’s brain for language. It teaches them about words and sentence formation, and introduces them to concepts like stories, colours, letters and numbers.

Inspiring a love of books is one of the best ways to prepare children for a lifetime of learning and enjoyment through reading. It will bring huge benefits at school and beyond, because being read to early on helps children to understand language, making it easier for them to learn to read themselves later on.

Once your child starts primary school they will be learning to read for themselves, but it’s still important that you enjoy books and reading stories together as a family. Your child will learn their letters and sounds at school, but reading together at home will really inspire them to enjoy and value reading and all the benefits it brings.

How to get the most out of storytime

Making story time part of your daily routine is a great way to make sure that books and reading are a familiar and fun experience for your child. Get them to choose a book (or two) to read with you on the sofa or in bed at the end of each day. Encourage them to tell you why they’ve selected the book, and what they like and dislike about it. If you can, store children’s books with the covers facing outwards so that your child becomes familiar with books that they enjoy, and can choose for themselves.

A visit to the local library can be a real treat for children – with the reward of borrowing a book at the end of it. It won’t cost you a penny, and they’ll love the experience of having their very own library card (which you can also use to borrow story CDs and DVDs). Taking care of a special book (which will eventually be returned) also helps children gain a sense of responsibility.

There’s also a bedtime story read by a familiar face on CBeebies every night at 6.50pm – if your child loves a story they’ve seen on screen make a note of the title and author and see if your local library or bookshop has a copy.

Be warned – small children do enjoy the repetition and familiarity of reading the same book over and over again. This is perfectly normal, and they will move on to something else eventually!

Starting to read

Before they can read for themselves, encourage your child to ‘read’ the pictures in their books by asking simple questions about what they can see. Getting the idea that the pictures can contain ‘clues’ that will help them read the words is essential when children are learning early reading skills at school.

After you’ve read or listened to a story together, try asking your child about what happened. Retelling a story is great for developing their speaking, listening and memory skills. Asking questions about how the characters might have felt, or how they reacted also helps you child understand different points of view.

The CBeebies Storytime app is packed with playful, imaginative stories designed especially to develop Early Years reading skills. There are fun things to touch, swipe and play with in each story, as well as questions to build your child’s comprehension skills. There are even tips for Grown-ups to help you support your little one’s reading development.

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Top tips

  • Variety is great. Encourage your child to read the things that interest them – such as comics, magazines, joke books, poetry or fact books. What they read can be about any topic, e.g. pets or sport.It’s great if your child sees you reading – anything from books, letters and emails to recipes, newspapers and magazines.Find the time to look at any book that comes home from school and share your child’s favourite books with them.

Expert opinion

The beauty of Booktime is that it provides every child with the opportunity to access books. Looking at the quality of the books, and looking at the pictures and the stories, I don’t think any child could not be motivated to read. The main impact of the books is that they belong to the child. The books are theirs, and that’s special to them. Anything that gives children that interest is very, very valuable.

Mr Eaton, Reception teacher

Parent's tale

My son was very pleased to have his own blue book bag and we've read through the books loads of times. They quickly became two of his favourites!

Jane, from Sheffield

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