Switch screen time to reading

As the days stretch a little longer and we are surrounded by the first awakenings of Spring, this is a time for new beginnings. Why not use this time to make lasting change in our lives? It can be something as simple as reading each night to our young children.

Did you know that less than half of under two-year-olds in the UK are read to daily, or almost every day by their parents?

For many, the classic bedtime story has been replaced by screen time, as reading is increasingly seen as a chore which does not fit into parents’ busy schedules. Insights from Nielsen BookData show that just 45 per cent of under two-year-olds are read to daily.

Interestingly, the figure peaks for three to four-year-olds at 58 per cent and then dips back to 44 per cent in five to seven-year-olds. The National Literacy Trust suggests that this could be partly because three to four-year olds are read to more frequently in order to prepare them for school.

The Trust highlighted a notion among parents that literacy is a subject to be learned at school and parental involvement is often restricted to ensuring children complete their reading homework.

What are the benefits of reading to young children?

Reading out loud to young children regularly and with your full attention is an excellent practice for building a strong relationship between parent and child, creating opportunities for discussion and emotional development. Reading a story before bed can also be invaluable for creating a sold bedtime routine which helps children fall asleep more easily and wake less frequently.

In terms of educational impact, reading frequently to young children helps to improve their vocabulary and academic confidence, leading to better performance across many different subjects.

So, what’s the problem? Why do parents find reading to their little ones to be such a chore?

Unfortunately, many people grapple daily with an almost impossibly busy schedule and struggle to dedicate any significant amount of time to ‘living in the moment’. Reading requires quiet, focus and, particularly if you’re reading to a toddler, an immeasurable amount of patience – all of which are scarce commodities in modern society.

How to create a positive reading habit

Bedtime is an excellent point in your daily schedule to make room for reading. A longer bedtime routine, lasting at least half an hour to an hour including a bath and book, contributes significantly to a better sleeping child.

After an undoubtedly busy day, the chaos of dinner time and post-meal ‘zoomies’, children sleep easier when they are given enough time to properly wind-down.

Create a welcoming environment for reading. If possible, set up a small reading corner with books kept at child-height so that they can get involved with choosing the evening’s story.

Engage with the story. Contemplate the words you speak aloud and pause between sections to talk about the book with your child. When you are genuinely interested in the bedtime story, so too will be your child.

If you are put off reading to your child because they struggle to sit still or listen and would much rather bounce off the walls, try leading by example. Stay in your position and continue to read aloud, ignoring your child’s unwanted behaviours. You might find that your child becomes intrigued by your own interest in the book and eventually comes to join you. As with anything, practice makes perfect so repeating this each night will help your child settle into the routine, spending less time ‘playing up’ and more time engaging with you.

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