How Important Is Reading For A Child’s Development?

18th December 2023

Child Reading UK

In the field of child development, there is one activity that stands out above the rest: the act of reading. As a practice that is deeply embedded in the fabric of parenting, reading is vital for a child’s growth. Not only has this been supported by parental beliefs, but also by extensive research, including the latest findings from Wish I’d Known. Recently, Doorstep Library hosted an Instagram Live in collaboration with Wish I’d Known and KidsBooksToLife to tackle the question of ‘How Important Is Reading For A Child’s Development?’. Some of our thoughts from the Live can be found throughout this blog.

 

Latest Findings On The Importance Of Reading As A Child

Reading Child's Development FindingsBased on recent research, there is a collective understanding among UK parents in regard to the significance of reading for a child’s development. A survey conducted by Wish I’d Known across various age groups, from infants at 0 months to toddlers at 36 months, revealed a resounding consensus. When 100 parents were asked ‘How important do you think it is to read to your child for their development, based on their current age?’ over 40% rated the impact of reading at the maximum level of 10.

As the age of children increased, the belief that reading is an important activity also grew. More than half of parents surveyed with 24-36-month-old children gave a perfect 10 rating. We can therefore see how there is an increasing recognition of the role reading can play in a child’s development.

Such findings align with research conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2002 which found that reading for pleasure is the biggest indicator of a child’s future success. Due to these findings, we can assume that if a child is unable to access books, an educational gap is created between peers which is difficult to bridge.

 

How Can Reading Impact A Child’s Development?

The impact of reading on a child’s development is vast and multifaceted. Reading can not only impact a child’s educational success, it can also improve several other key developmental indicators including cognitive abilities, creativity, social development and more.

  • Cognitive Development

Firstly, the act of reading stimulates cognitive abilities, and fosters language acquisition, critical thinking and comprehension. By being exposed to diverse vocabulary and sentence structures through books, children can improve their linguistic repertoire and lay the groundwork for effective communication and academic success.

  • Imagination and Creativity

Reading can also fuel a child’s imagination and creativity by transporting them to worlds beyond their immediate surroundings. Children are encouraged to visualise, conceptualise and dream when reading. The ability to think creatively is a vital skill that extends beyond childhood, influencing problem-solving and innovation.

  • Emotional Development

The characters, stories, and themes within books can help children to navigate and understand complex feelings – ultimately serving as a gateway to emotions. As they connect with characters’ experiences, empathy can also be nurtured.

  • Social Development

Equally, reading creates a shared experience between parents/carers and children. Through discussing stories, a child’s communication skills and understanding of social dynamics can be heightened. Plus, reading fosters a unique bond between those sharing time together.

 

Should I Read To Newborn Babies?

Many people might believe that reading to a newborn is ineffective given that babies lack comprehension skills. However, the journey of reading can begin before a child is able to article words or follow narratives. Reading to newborn babies can, in fact, bring significant benefits and set the course for language development.

Phonetic Awareness

While newborns may not comprehend the content of a book, they are attuned to the rhythm, pace, and tone of their parent’s/carer’s voice. This auditory stimulation plays a pivotal role in language acquisition as it introduces infants to the nuances of language, ultimately promoting the development of listening skills and phonetic awareness.

Positive Associations

The act of reading can also become a soothing ritual that provides comfort and a sense of security to newborns. As mentioned earlier, the shared moments during reading can contribute to the bond between parent and child which in turn, creates a positive association with books.

As infants grow, their familiarity with books will allow them to transition into more interactive and engaging reading experiences.

 

Which Strategies Can Help Engage Children In Reading?

Engaging children in reading may be easier for some than others. Yet it is important to consider a child’s interests and stages of development, as these factors can prove to be vital for engagement. Here are some of our key strategies to cultivate a love for reading:

  • Start Reading Early: Introduce books from infancy and make reading part of your routine.
  • Make It Interactive: Encourage participation by asking questions, discussing characters, and showing interactive books.
  • Allow Children To Choose: By encouraging children to choose the books they read, they will feel more involved in the activity and as a result, more likely to take initiative in future sessions.
  • Lead By Example: Demonstrate a love for reading by letting children see you enjoy books.
  • Diversify Reading Material: Offer a variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, and culturally diverse stories to broaden a child’s literary exposure.

The importance of reading for a child’s development is clear – reading can transform a child’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills. The latest findings, combined with practical strategies, highlight just how crucial reading is in unlocking a child’s full potential from the earliest stages of life. By recognising and embracing this, we can help ensure that every child has the opportunity to embark on a journey of discovery and growth through the magical world of literature.