Is reading old fashioned? Some may think so and many children certainly do due to the prevalence of electronic devices. When we say reading, it’s not about forcing your child to learn how to read from an early age (experts agree the ideal age is between six and seven), but also reading to them when they’re toddlers and reading with them as they get older.
What are the benefits of reading?
• Builds and improves vocabulary and grammar
• Intellectually challenges young minds and inspires their imagination
• Teaches reasoning skills
• Teaches about everything around us – from animals and different cultures to fairy tales and imaginary worlds
• Two- to three-year-olds can already understand the basis of phonics so you can prepare them for kindergarten / school if you read with them
• Makes learning during the early years at school easier if the child already has an interest and basic knowledge of reading
• A baby’s brain triples in size within its first 12 months – reading to them from an early age enhances their mental efficiency
• Brings parents and children closer especially if you make it a habit, e.g. bedtime story time or during play time
What books at what age?
From birth to the of age 3, board and concept books are most suitable. Board books are printed on thick paperboard with usually less than 10 words or having only pictures on each page. This allows babies and toddlers to handle the book easily and to also play with them. Popular themes include nursery rhymes, colours, shapes and the alphabet. These books can also have extra features like pop-up flaps, finger tabs, touch-and-feel pages and buttons to make sounds. They are also able to withstand the punishment inflicted by a typical toddler!
Picture storybooks are suitable for children aged three to eight and are considered early reader material. Pictures are detailed enough to tell the story and provide most of the description, and storylines are educational and emotionally sound. For example: how to deal with real-life situations like sharing, sibling rivalry and starting school. Parents can also introduce colouring and activity books, which can be done together and are ideal when going on holiday.
Chapter books (easy readers) can be introduced to children aged 6 to 10 and can be read independently. These novelty books have more complex sentences and plot developments reflecting a child’s concerns, particularly during those crucial early school years, e.g. friendship, fitting in and overcoming challenges. These books have longer chapters and illustrations may be kept to a minimum or are presented in a more mature way like in black and white.
At the age of 8 to 12, middle grade books (also known as the children’s novel or pre-teen books) with longer chapters are suitable for the mentally maturing child. Storylines involve several protagonists and points of view, and the introduction of more adult themes like first loves (crushes), more complex human relationships and humour. There may be a hint of violence but it’s usually superficial. Popular themes include fantasy, science fiction and history that are published as a series.
Young adult novels come into the picture from the age of 13 to 16. By this age it will be obvious if your child loves reading or not, and he/she will have graduated on to novels usually based upon the paranormal, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, science fiction and real-life situations. Characters are usually teenagers too, so readers can relate to them and themes become more adult – dating and sexuality, death, self-discovery, coming-of-age, substance abuse, partying and even violence. From the age of 17, most book-loving teens will be reading literature covering everything from the classics and contemporary fiction to biographies and whatever is on the best books list at the time.