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Reading to children

Cartoon style pile of hardback books

After I posted my World Book Day post last week I was asked if I could include these statistics:

Did you know: Reading to your child for 20 minutes a day can increase their lifetime earnings by £280,000?

Despite this: Only 18% of new parents read to their children for 20 minutes a day (In The Book reading survey, 2020)

https://www.inthebook.com/en-gb/blog/benefits-of-reading-to-children/

But I felt like the topic was took large to just add to an already published blog post so I’ve written this.

I read to mine from the moment they were born, not only did I read picture books but storybooks, may of which were above their reading age. Also when they were babies, especially with my daughter who preferred to sleep in my arms, I would read myself whilst she slept. But I did not read to mine to increase their earning potential. I read to mine because I enjoy books and enjoy reading.

Even though I was a single parent I chose to home school both mine. This meant that there were a lot of reading opportunities. Every subject we covered involved reading and, as home education is a family activity so was the reading in it.

One of our most enjoyable moments in each month was when the Horrible Histories comic would arrive. We could sit on the couch, read through the magazine and then do the quizzes and activities within it together. I read to them most bedtimes until they were in their teens. I found it was a great way to settle us all down for the evening, but it also gave me a chance to read out loud some of my old childhood favourites, and read some of the children’s books they were reading. Often we would have a novel that I would read to them and then they would read to themselves.

So why do only 18% of new parents read to their children for only 20 mins a day? I think it is because we expect so much more from parents now compared to when mine were smaller. My husband’s friends are career people who work long hours, make sure their kids are having lots of extra curricular experiences but then when everyone gets home they are tired and ready to unplug, so TV is a go-to. And I don’t blame them. I think being a home schooling single mum I had two advantages. One I was not trying to fit in a career around my children’s lives but also I was not having to fit another adult relationship into my life. I had lots of space to read, both to them and for myself.

I believe instead of condemning new parents for not reading more to their children we need to spend time with them and find out why. For a working parent it is hard to get to a library that is open at a time that works for them, because many libraries only have done day a week where they open late and this may not be on an evening they are free. As has been found over lockdown many people, even though they have more time, have had less head-space to get lost in a book. Reading takes focused energy and many avid readers over this time have struggled to read. Imagine if reading is not your first activity to unwind, then imagine you are working all day and trying to run a home too? Where is the time? Where is the head-space?

So I do think instead of saying this isn’t happening we need to find out why, need to find a way to help these new, and not so new, parents, find time to read to their children, and also to be able to read themselves. As someone said the best way to get kids to read is for them to see their parents reading.

8 Benefits of Reading are:

Enhances their literacy and reading skills

Enhances their language skills

Creates a stronger parent-child bond

Better concentration and discipline

Improves performance in school

Widens their imagination

Promotes healthy brain development

Keeps them entertained 

https://www.inthebook.com/en-gb/blog/benefits-of-reading-aloud/

I don’t believe parents don’t read to their children because they don’t want to but because they cannot find that opening into reading themselves. There are many great websites out there to help.

But really as a society we need to ask ourselves how we can stop condemning and instead ask how we can support

How can we find a way to support them?