Words are all that matter

Jenny anxiously waited for the time after dinner when she would plop onto her mother’s lap and take out the big book with fire-breathing dragons and bashful fairies, gazing intently at the way her mother would read to life all her fantasies. The next day she would share the reading experience with her friends.

By Afshan Ahmed

Published: Mon 23 Feb 2009, 1:23 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:32 AM

Love for reading cannot be acquired in a day and parents who understand this are doing a great deal for their children.

UK researchers at the Institute of Education found a correlation between mothers who believe it is important to teach their toddler the alphabet and to count and read to them regularly, and the child’s achievements at the age of five.

“Toddlers are at a stage where they are exploring their existence. They start learning through their own experience. So when mum and dad read to children there is a lot that can be imparted in that period,” said Sarah Dayal, Teacher of Psychology at an international school in Dubai.

Tender minds can be easily moulded and instilling the habit of reading from the age of two is associated with higher intellectual productivity of a child. The UK study mentioned that children who were read to daily did better in the vocabulary cognitive test, which involved them being shown a picture and asked to identify the object. They also performed better in the foundation stage profiles and had higher behaviour scores.

According to Dr Mary Hower, Director of Family Development Center, Clinical Psychologist at the Oasis Hospital in Al Ain, reading to children develops listening skills and attention span.

“Five to 20 per cent of children have difficulty with attention and focusing. While listening to someone read, children grasp more and retain better.”

Being exposed to stories with mythical plots that have realistic morals is the first step to unleashing the imagination of the tiny-tots. “When a four-year-old listens to Hansel and Gratel walking onto the cobbled stone path, heading towards a chocolate and candy frosted house, it conjures up images. The child becomes inquisitive and an association starts taking place. It helps them express better,” explained Dayal.

A rich vocabulary base and sentence formation ability comes effortlessly for such children, even before they start schooling. “Their vocabulary develops rapidly as they pick up new words and sentences. These children even exude a lot of confidence and have great communication skills,” she added.

TV viewing and the Internet are often blamed for the dwindling interest in books. Parents too are often hard pressed for time and resort to TV techniques to keep their children busy. “Taking time out to have reading sessions is very essential. It is not only a learning stage but one where a child bonds with the parents,” said Hower.

“The child acquires a sense of security which is very important while they are growing up. Such children who are weaned away from such activities display anti-social behaviour and are very insecure,” added Dayal.

Mona S, mother of four-year-old Daniel calls her reading time the ‘happy hour’. “I sit with him and we read a book of his choice. It’s the happiest hour of my day and his too!”

“Parents must change their approach to reading and storytelling,” advised Dayal.

“It should not be considered a daunting task for all involved. The stories should have morals but must also be exciting for the child. Parents should avoid enforcing reading, rather encourage it through games and active participation.”


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