Importance of reading for a child’s development
On 23 April we celebrated World Book Day and the power reading has on a child’s development.
“Reading is an integral part in the development of language in young children.” says Firdow Parker, a Western Cape Government Health speech-language and hearing therapist. A child’s physical and mental development is most vulnerable during the first 1000 days of their life. This is the period from conception to two years of age.
“Reading to children between the ages of 0 to 6 is crucial as it aids language development and prevent any future language delays. Exposing children to books at an early age also assists with vocabulary expansion as well as school readiness,” Firdow explains.
Interacting with your child, playing and speaking to them, and reading aloud to them even before they can speak, have major developmental benefits. Reading is a powerful activity that all parents should do with their children every day to help prepare them for school, bond with them, and reduce behavioural problems.
Tips to read aloud to your child:
Sit with your child on your lap or next to you and read the book together. If you can’t read, you can tell the story to your child by looking at the pictures.
For babies: Choose books with many bright pictures. Read aloud and put expression in your voice. Discuss the pictures with your baby by pointing to the pictures and tell them what you see. Give them time to respond by pointing or interacting.
For toddlers: Take turns choosing books that matches your child’s interests. Try to choose books in your child’s home language. Books with rhymes, repetition, and flaps are great choices for young children. Talk to them about the concepts and characters and encourage them to ask questions and interact. Ask your child to join in and help you to read the story by repeating a word or phrase.
For primary school children: Make time to read every day, even when your child can read. Encourage your child to read to you and listen carefully. Ask your child questions about the book and discuss what you have read to aid reading with comprehension. Let them choose books they want to read and introduce them to the local library.
By reading to your child, you can also identify developmental issues that you have to pay attention to. If you feel that your child is not meeting their developmental milestones as explained in the Road to Health Booklet they received at birth, you can take them to the nearest primary healthcare clinic for a check-up. If your child is not meeting their developmental milestones or any issues are noticed, your child will be referred to a specialist clinic or a rehabilitation professional for further assessment.
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