The brain activity that occurs when we read fiction is very similar to actually experiencing something for yourself. Most young children live in quite a limited environment, but reading about far-flung places and eye-opening situations can be a great way to expand their view of the world.
1. Stories shape how we see the world
TRY THIS: reading stories about real-life situations such as starting school or getting a new sibling is a great way to help children figure out how to handle them in reality.
2. Stories help us understand each other
Scientists have found that children who have fiction read to them regularly tend to find it easier to understand other people – they have more empathy and are better able to grasp that other people have different thoughts and feelings.
TRY THIS: when you’re reading together, encourage children to consider things from a character’s point of view (for example, by asking ‘how do you think he felt when that happened?’)
3. Stories improve our communication skills
Asking questions is a great way to build children’s understanding of stories. Start with ‘literal’ questions, asking children to recall what’s happened, and add in ‘inference’ questions (e.g. ‘why do you think he did that?’) and ‘evaluative’ questions (e.g. ‘do you think he should have done that?’) as they get older. Questions can help you assess what your child has understood and encourage them to ‘read between the lines’ and form opinions about the story based on their own knowledge and experience.
TRY THIS: The CBeebies Storytime app has a dedicated Grown-ups area to help you support children’s reading development, as well as questions to help develop comprehension skills.
4. Stories fire our imaginations
A mixture of reading together, telling stories orally, watching stories on TV or film and making up your own stories is the best way to inspire a child’s imagination and extend their play. Don’t be scared to use gestures and expression when you’re reading aloud or recounting stories.
TRY THIS: use your child’s toys to create characters and take them on an adventure together around the house – think about where they might go and who they might meet on the way. Click here to find out more about supporting children’s imaginative play.
5. Stories help us make memories
Retelling stories from your family’s past, or even talking about what happened today, can be lots of fun. Doing this develops children’s memories and sequencing skills. Click here to watch dads and daughters talking together about their family heritage.
TRY THIS: make time at the end of the day to share a story together. If your child can tell a simple story in their own words, build on this by asking more in-depth questions such as ‘how did that make you feel?’ or ‘why do you think that happened?’
We hope you feel inspired by World Book Day! The reading and storytelling doesn’t have to stop there, have a listen to our CBeebies Radio stories