July 26, 2019
JK Rowling, who knows a thing or two about the magic of children’s books, left no doubt about her feelings towards a good story, when she said:
“I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.”
Books, and the wonderful stories within them, can play a vital role in expanding a child’s imagination, and a huge amount of research suggests that reading to a child at home from when they are a baby onwards is the best way that a parent or carer can influence a child’s long-term educational outcomes.
If academic research doesn’t convince you though, then how about this excerpt from Roald Dahl’s book ‘Matilda’, to illustrate the broadening of horizons that reading can inspire.
He wrote of Matilda that
“the books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
The English village in question, by the way, is in Buckinghamshire – not so very far away from Bedfordshire!
Children interact with books and stories in different ways, depending on their age and development. What’s certain is that they are constantly learning as they do so. They will observe how to handle a book and how to turn the pages. They will watch as you point out pictures on the pages and talk about them and, in time, will copy these actions and make links between the written and spoken word. They will hear a variety of new sentences and words that they may not hear in everyday conversation. They will concentrate and start to develop an understanding of language.
Younger babies: as their eyesight is still developing in the early months, start them off with books with strong black and white patterns and pictures, which help them to focus and aid their concentration. Textured, interactive and lift-the-flap books are particularly good when babies start to handle books themselves, as they allow babies to explore using all of their senses, and to discover all that the book has to offer.
Older babies – 3 year olds: spending time reading with them can promote brain development and spark their imagination and curiosity, while starting to help them to distinguish between what is real and what is make believe. Regularly reading books together can help to expand your child’s vocabulary more rapidly and help them to understand the meaning of words and how to use them. Once they start to speak and use short sentences books can also help your child to foster a desire to learn, naturally leading to them ask questions and seek answers.
Preschool children and those in Reception class at school: repetitive stories that rhyme and/or have alliteration are great fun, and titles such as ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury , ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson, and ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?’ by Eric Carle are good examples. There is usually a natural rhythm with which to read these stories, and if you pause during the repetitive/rhyming parts your child will enjoy filling in the missing words.
Books can be a useful tool to help any child to make sense of new experiences and changes that are happening in their own lives, such as starting school, a visit to the dentist, a new addition to the family or the loss of a loved one. Reading books about things your child is experiencing will help them to speak about how they are feeling and to make sense of their feelings.
Story time does not have to be limited to sharing books. Children can be fabulous storytellers themselves and there is so much fun to be had in creating stories together. Make use of props such as puppets and figures, or if you are feeling particularly creative make some of your own with your child. You can introduce your child to the concepts of story writing, encouraging them to think about their story having a beginning (introducing the story and characters), a middle (where something happens) and an end (where the story comes to a conclusion).
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go” – Dr Seuss.
The library is obviously an ideal place to get access to a huge variety of books for your child. Bedfordshire also offer a home library service for library users who are unable to get to their local library. Full details of this service can be found here.
There are several libraries across the county where your child can have access to a vast selection of books. Some of the libraries also offer activities sessions for children where they can share stories and take part in art and craft activities. Please see the list below to find your local library;
1 Dunstable Street
Tel: 0300 300 8053
Tel: 0300 300 8054
Bedford Central Library
Tel: 01234 718178
Tel: 0300 300 8055
The Dunstable Centre
Tel: 0300 300 8056
Tel: 0300 300 8057
Houghton Regis Library
Tel: 0300 3008058
Leighton Buzzard Library
Tel: 0300 300 8059
Tel: 0300 300 8063
Tel: 0300 300 8065
Tel: 0300 300 8067
Tel: 0300 300 8068
9 Market Square
Tel: 0300 300 8069
Written by Sally Whitear – Harmony at Home Nanny Agency Bedfordshire for Harmony at Home Limited. All Rights Reserved, 2019