The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go - Dr Seuss.
A few months ago I wrote about sharing moments and growing as a family by getting outside more. My family is taking part in the 1000-hours outside initiative. It is our first time, and surprisingly we are tracking okay with 300 hours so far.
I recently came across a statistic that got me thinking about another way to share time with your family … reading.
Reading daily to your child(ren) is important, not only because it is an essential life skill, but because it helps to build strong family connections.
Photo by @andrea.vd.meer
There is a lot of research available on the topic, but one study caught my attention because of the number involved. Research by Ohio State University says the difference between reading to kids at home, and not, is more than a million words by the time they start kindergarten. Wowzers!
Reading together creates opportunities to talk with your child, and discuss important topics like kindness and empathy.
One million words
The lead author of the study, said the million-word gap could help explain the differences in vocabulary and reading development. Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard approximately 1.4 million more words than children who were never read to.
I can hear you gasp reading the above statement - Five books a day, what? But, the study did say that even reading one book a day increases the number of words a child hears by around 290,000. The researchers came up with these numbers by factoring in the average word length of a board book being approximately 140 words.
I always found we easily read five books when my kids were younger because they had the next book ready to push in front of me.
According to the study, children who hear more vocabulary words are better prepared when they start school, to see those words in print. It is worth mentioning this study is about a vocabulary word gap, which is different from the conversational word gap.
Something Alison David shared on the National Literacy Trust's website, which stuck with me is that when we read a story to our children, and give them our full attention we're telling them they matter. I've never thought of it like that, have you?
Reading to your child builds their self-esteem, vocabulary, feeds their imagination, and even improves their sleeping patterns, says Alison David
If you don’t read a lot at home with your little one, don’t despair. It is never too late to start.
Here are six simple tips to help raise a reader, and set up a reading space to enjoy together.
1. Lead by example
Read in front of your children. Whether it's a magazine, novel, or recipe book with the meal you are preparing. Kids copy what they see their parents do, and if you’re excited about reading they’ll catch on to that.
2. Make it a daily habit
You can start reading to your children from birth, because it helps pass the time during a feed, and also soothes them with a familiar sound (your voice). Even reading aloud while pregnant ...
Your baby won’t care if you’re reading an instruction manual or a home decor magazine.
3. Visit the library
My children love visiting the library. It’s not very quiet once we arrive, but the librarians are so gracious and happy to see us enjoying the space. Our local library has a space set up to read books while we’re there.
They also have a reading “story time” session to attend and listen to a story (a bit like going to a mother's group or playgroup).
My children love picking books and checking them out with their own library card (not mummy’s library card). They feel so grown up!
Another benefit of visiting the library is you save money on buying books, and it gets you out of the house. Every summer the libraries in the UK host reading challenges. While it is prompted in the primary schools, I discovered last year that they are inclusive of younger children who can also participate and earn stickers and a certificate. Something to check out!
4. Use every opportunity
You don’t have to be sat down to read. Use every opportunity to read out loud, it doesn’t matter if it is a menu, grocery shopping list, street sign, or the instructions on the back of some packaging. You'll soon find they start to recognize letters and sounds.
5. Re-read favorite books
Our four-year-old can "read" the Hungary Caterpillar, purely because we’ve read it so many times she has cast it to memory. But I have noticed that she now recognizes letters (especially those in her name) and words like “and” “the”.
6. Create a reading space
Your reading space doesn’t have to be big or have a lot of books. All you need is something comfy to sit on, somewhere to safely store your books, and good lighting. These three simple things can help your little one associate reading with comfort, coziness, and quiet time.
The reading nook
The last tip - create a reading space - is a great idea but how do you go about creating a welcoming reading space in your home?
It is easy enough to do with just four elements; not including the books of course! Start by deciding where you want to set up the space. It doesn't need to be big, or prominent, just somewhere you can make cozy to sit. Then add a bookshelf, lighting, and even some decorations.
I've included some inspiration from some of our Toddlekind Instagram followers below.
The aim is to create an inviting space that inspires a joy of reading.
It's always good to do some research, or check out social media, for inspiration before you start especially if you need to go out and buy things for your space. But you'll likely have a lot of this at home already.
The seating will be dictated by the space (or corner you use). For example, a lot of people will set up a reading space in a corner, or a nook space they have. I have even seen some use a small wardrobe, the drawers underneath house the books, and the inside of the wardrobe gave off a Narnia-feel.
I think that concept is great for older children, but for younger ones, a beanbag, nursing chair, a cot mattress, or a soft, cotton play mat like Toddlekind’s leaf mat is a great starter. I’ve also seen people up-cycle pallets, and put big pillows on them. You can even set up the space inside of a teepee like @five_make_a_home
There are lots of beautiful children's bookshelves on the market. Or you could use a cubby hole shelving unit like @littleowain . She is using Toddlekind's Earth Prettier Puzzle play mat (Clay) on the floor.
My personal favorite is the use of a floating shelf or spice rack because they serve multiple purposes including allowing your child to see the cover of the book. This style of shelf can also act as decoration for the space much like what @bowinthesky has on her stunning yellow wall. You can find the Toddlekind (Sandcastle) leaf mat here.
From experience, it is easier for children to retrieve, and return, books to these shelves whereas a traditional shelf can be tricky. I found our books were easily damaged putting books away “the normal” way and the pages and corners get bent and ripped trying to fit the book back on the shelf.
Teaching your little one how to treat books is also part of the learning process.
It is important to have enough lighting to help you, and eventually, your child, read well. Depending on the time of day, you will need two lighting sources. One should be a natural light source, so you'll want to have your reading space as close to a window as possible.
There are many studies on the effect natural light has (all positive) on our bodies and our minds. According to Shishegar and Boubekri (2016), the use of natural light helps improve our:
- vitamin D intake
- visual system
- circadian rhythm
- sleep quality *Check out our Sleep blog to learn more about this.
- mental performance, and brain activity
I love all the natural lighting @maaajciii has in her play corner. It is finished with a stunning bookshelf that can display books conventionally, or sideways. The Toddlekind Luxe playmat adds a cozy place to snuggle down and read.
When your natural light source is lacking, switch to your second lighting source - a free-standing lamp or something on the wall.
Depending on your space this will vary. Put up some fairy lights, bunting, and pom poms which are fun items that add color to the space. Or if you prefer, hang some book art like some framed book gift wrap or book quotes like the one I shared at the beginning of this blog.
Reading is a great habit. But like all habits, it needs repetition and regularity to establish itself. As parents, we need to create the habit by setting the example, and consciously making time.
Tell me ...
What was your favorite book as a child?
Do you have a reading nook at home? We always love to see the beautiful interior spaces our TK families create. Tag Toddlekind on Instagram to show us!
Images in order of appearance:
@andrea.vd.meer | Helena Lopes (via Pexels) | Lina Kivaka (via Pexels) | Antoni Shkraba (via Pexels) | Rodnae Productions (via Pexels) | @henry.andhome | @five_make_a_home | @littleowain | @bowinthesky | @maaajciii