As parents, it is fair to say that most of us want the best for our children. But have you ever thought that helping your child along the way creates an UNFAIR advantage?
That's what Professors Adam Swift of University of Warwick, England and Harry Brighouse (University of Wisconsin) think. They published a recent study (2015) stating that not being read bedtime stories puts kids at a far greater disadvantage than missing out on an elite education at a top school. Their report says, "The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.”
They go on to say that the way to level the playing field would be for parents who DO read to their children to perhaps stop and think of the unfair advantage the are giving them.
Reading this made me feel very uncomfortable.
Then I stopped and thought about another study I came across by Duff, Reen, Plunkett and Nation (2015), in which 300 infants in the UK were assessed in terms of their language development at around 2 yrs old and again 5 years later. The study's results showed, "Infant vocabulary... was a statistically significant predictor of later vocabulary, phonological awareness, reading accuracy and reading comprehension.", proving that early exposure to a wide range of books, stories and conversations is vital in developing a child's chances of succeeding later in learning. Why, as a parent, would I stop my child from having that advantage?
So, here are 10 ways to give your child an UNFAIR ADVANTAGE by reading to them...
1 - Feed the Imagination
Stories are a great way to model creativity and imagination. Children as young as 2 years old can happily re-enact a story with characters. The more expression you use in telling the story, the better! You never know, you could be looking at the next JK Rowling!
2 - Exercise the Brain
Reading strengthens brain connections and makes new ones. This makes the brain work much harder than watching TV. Reading a bedtime story together helps your child become aware of patterns in stories and enables them to predict what comes next. Think of 'The Gruffalo' or 'Going On a Bear Hunt' - these are well-loved stories which my own children loved to 'read' and tell me what was coming next.
3 - Let's Talk!
Reading a bedtime story is great, but don't stop there. Talk about it as you go through the story. How does the character feel? What do you think might happen next? Where is he going? What is she doing? Asking questions not only helps your child to engage more with the story, but also helps to develop early comprehension skills.
4 - Words, Words, Words!!
Did you know that the number of words a child hears in early life will affect their capacity to learn later on? Keep talking to your child, not only at bedtime, but ALL THE TIME. Read signs together. Play at spotting letters or numbers when you are out and about. Help them engage with the world around them by describing what you see. Modelling good sentence structures and correct pronunciation is a great way to give your child a good start. Talking will help enhance verbal proficiency in your child.
5 - Develop Virtues and Morals
Read together, even when they reach teenage years. Modelling good reading habits is one of the best examples you can give. Talk about your books as a way of empathising with characters or learning from them. This can come in useful when a 'real life' issue arises - you can refer back to certain characters to discuss wisdom, honesty, courage and understanding.
6 - Memory Boost
Ask your child to say what has happened in the story so far. This not only helps to develop their memory but also helps to increase concentration (another vital tool for learning later!). Repeating the same story over a few night can help this too.
7 - Communication
Reading stories together helps your child become more curious about things, and therefore more inquisitive. This is a great way to build a child's confidence and vocabulary.
8 - Involve Your Child
When reading a bedtime story, involve your child. Ask them questions or present ideas to them with phrases such as, "Did you know...?" This makes them engage more with the story.
9 - Develop Cultural Understanding
Share stories from your own culture as well as others. This helps your child to become more aware of people who may come from different backgrounds. Exposure to cultural differences helps your child to become more tolerant and understanding.
10 - Develop a loving bond