When I visit our early years classes I am often gleefully approached by a child holding tightly to a favorite book and asked to read it. We sit cozily and enjoy the book, remarking on the illustrations, saying parts together and relishing every page. Usually it’s a book I’ve read many many times on lots of occasions. I’m sure you will have had the same experience at home; re-reading a book that you’ve read a lot and trying to maintain the same amount of enthusiasm and expressive tone each time. Children are attracted to the familiar. Familiarity provides comfort, enthusiasm and confidence. Matt Glover suggests that, the comfort of familiarity creates opportunities to activate schema and meaning-making strategies. The enthusiasm that familiarity invites increases engagement. The confidence that’s bred by familiarity encourages a sense of agency. So providing opportunities for children to read familiar texts regularly is important for well-rounded reading development and vital for joyful engagement with texts and crucial for helping children to develop a growth mind-set towards reading and towards viewing themselves as readers.
Research around the world has shown that children who are read to regularly are better able to learn to read easily, happily and quickly. Listening to beloved stories again and again is a step on the road to literacy that cannot be ignored. Reading aloud cultivates the essential enchanting engagement with books, stories, rhymes and songs that every child has to experience before the formal teaching of reading can begin. The books that children listen to provide the best possible words in the best possible places. They teach children the language they will need. Reading familiar stories is so important, and the effect of loved stories is profound. There’s not much point in reading a great book once! A story will have an educational and emotional effect if it’s familiar, if the children know it so well that it becomes a favourite. And it can only become a favourite if it’s read again and again and again.
Mem Fox reminds us,
“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”
Every time a child asks me to read ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, one of the ‘Elephant and Piggie’ stories or indeed any familiar book, my heart is filled with joy to see them so in love with reading. My final word is, read the stories that your child loves, over and over, and over again and watch them grow into sparkling confident and capable readers.
Fox, M. Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever
Collins, C. and Glover, M. (2015) I Am Reading. Heineman, NH
Director of Early Years