A few minutes spent reading to your child can provide them with countless benefits in the long-term. Shaneela Essani explains why and how children benefit from reading and includes tips on how and what to read to your child.

A few days ago I witnessed my cousin?s 18-month old son pointing at pictures of animals in a book. He was pointing at each animal, saying its name, the sound it makes and its colour.

My cousin and his wife have incorporated reading to their little boy for at least fifteen minutes into their daily routine. When I saw this I wondered that if only fifteen minutes of reading a day can help an eighteen month old child learn so much, how much could it help him in future?

All children have an insatiable appetite for learning. From birth to six years of age, the ability to absorb information is unparalleled and the desire to do so is stronger than it will ever be again. So you can start reading to children right from the moment they are born.

It has been proven that reading stimulates the development of the brain and widely enhances language. And reading aloud, with children participating actively, helps them learn new words, increases their knowledge of the world, improves their understanding of written language, and also helps them see the connection between words that are spoken and words that are written. In fact the more young children are read to, the greater their interest in mastering reading.

Reading aloud to children also exposes them to proper grammar and phrasing. It enhances the development of their spoken language skills and their ability to express themselves verbally.

Reading to children from books, magazines or websites also exposes them to new vocabulary. Even when they don?t understand every new word, they absorb something from the context which deepens their understanding for the next time that they encounter the same word. When a child is read aloud to, he also learns the correct pronunciation as he sees the words on the page, even when he can?t yet read them.

Reading can also provide children with endless hours of fun and entertainment. It builds listening skills, increases a child’s attention span, and develops her ability to concentrate.

If your child is also able to write, you should encourage follow-up activities ?after they have read something ? which involves creative writing skills or art. This will help them reflect and build on what they have absorbed and help them develop their creativity.

Reading is a great way to bring out your child?s creativity, because children visualize while listening which enhances their imagination and their ability to express themselves.

It is crucial for parents to find the time to reading to their children every day. You can read to your child while waiting to see the pediatrician, while waiting for a table at a restaurant or even while waiting in line at the store.

Reading can substitute for long hours of watching television and become a family activity. You can read aloud in the morning before school and, of course, at bedtime.

p>There are so many ways in which reading can continue to be both a vital skill for children to master, an important source of knowledge and a pleasure that lasts a lifetime. So nurture it in your children and make the most of all the resources that are available, from printed books to online reading material.

Reading to children is one of the best ways to put children on the road to success, academically and personally. Reading opens doors ?to factual, practical or theoretical information about any subject. If children can read well and if they see reading as a source of information, then for the rest of their lives they can have access to the knowledge accumulated by mankind, access to great minds and ideas of the past and present. It truly is magic!

Although reading is usually considered a solitary activity, it gives you the opportunity to share some quality time with your child. A few precious minutes spent with your little ones can enhance your relationship with your child and enrich his world at the same time. In fact infants love to hear the voices of their parents. It does not matter what you read ? just your baby and your togetherness is what actually counts. If you also have older children, encourage them to read to their younger siblings.

On the other hand, often in the zeal to prepare young children for schools we end up pressurising them into learning to read. This can discourage a child?s interest and desire for reading and eventually turn it into an unpleasant experience. Eventually they may just not want to read at all.

Sometimes children want to hear the same story over and over again, but you shouldn?t worry about that. Children just find it comforting to hear a familiar story which they can predict as well. You can reread them their old favourites and also introduce new books to them. A child?s mind and heart has plenty of room for both.

When choosing a book, select one that interests you too. As you read change the tone of your voice and imitate the characters? voices. Involve your child in the reading, discuss the story with them, talk about the characters, and ask what has happened and what will happen next. Ask them for their opinion and sometimes you can also try to make them guess the ending.

It is also very important that you select an age-appropriate book for your child. Depending on her age, a child?s attention span could be short so it is important to start with a picture book to keep the child interested before gradually moving on to books with one-line sentences and then eventually to books with chapters.

To start reading to your child, find a nice quiet place without any distractions and with good lighting where you two can cuddle up. Remember to position the book so that you and your child can both easily follow the text.

Help your children appreciate the magic of reading; you will find that there is a whole wonderful world of literature for children that you can enjoy too.

Last but not the least, enjoy reading time with your children and have fun reading with them.

Happy reading!

Shaneela Essani is an early years? teacher and a recent graduate of the TRC-Institute of ECE.

July 2011