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Why it is important to read with your child

Why it is important to read with your child

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 - 13:33

At a book festival in the village hall last week, I happily browsed through donations of secondhand books, old and new. Over at the "vintage" (hmm...) section, my friend and I giggled over much thumbed copies of Mandy and Bunty Picture Books. (For younger readers, Picture Books are like an Enid Blyton version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Oh yes, we knew how to have fun in those days....).

Picking up a 1968 copy of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, the nostalgic scent of ink on yellowing paper hit me as I read the author's foreword. Twain was telling us that, as well as to "entertain boys and girls" he wanted to remind adults of "what they once were themselves, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in."

There was something "queer" indeed about the effect these words were having on me. It was like being sucked into a time machine. Entering what we now call "the zone"; I found myself flashing back into lazy afternoons, my teenage self lounging on floors and sofas, book in hand; sunlight, or maybe moonlight, glancing off the curtains, all sense of the outside world temporarily blocked out.

Flashing forward twenty years, some of my most treasured moments with my children when they were small occurred as they sat in the crook of my arm, happily reading picture books with me, sunlight or maybe moonlight glancing off the curtains, all sense of the outside world temporarily blocked out.....

Once I asked my older son which book he wanted me to read to him, and he replied "can I have the one with princesses and dragons and castles and dungeons inside it?" The power of the printed word indeed. That same son is now a fully paid up member of the Facebook generation. However, now at university, after looking into the effects of iPads on sleep, he has imposed a digital curfew on himself, curling up with an old fashioned book after hours instead.

Of course, there are many benefits in using technology to read with your child. Modern parents say that reading interactive stories online allow their children a sense of control, and so can stoke their creativity. On the cbeebies website children can interact with their favourite television show character, picking up digital skills in the process. There are apps which allow long distance story sharing, ideal for grandparents who don't live nearby.  Kindoma, like Skype, allows adult and child to see each other in an image at the corner of the screen while the adult reads the book aloud.

Having said that, I am pretty sure, as a teacher of a certain vintage, you will be expecting me to recommend printed books over digital ones. Right? Wrong. Go to the back of the class!

At the end of the day, reading is reading. As parents, you will know what works best for you and your child. My only advice is "everything in moderation". After all, some children just love tech, and we want to encourage that, right? You could have the next Steve Jobs on your hands, although, perhaps surprisingly, Jobs was himself a low tech parent.

If you are finding it hard, however, to prise the IPad away from your child, click here for some ideas on how to redress the balance between using technology and the printed word.

And remember, when all is said and done, reading stories with your little one will create wonderful memories for you both. Hopefully it will also set your child up for life with some healthy reading habits. So whether you favour using recycled trees or aluminium and glass to read together, Enjoy!

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