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Unleash Your Superpower: The Impact of Reading on Personal Development

Reading is a Superpower!

The Wise Owl Tutor Blog Kent

From babies to children in their early years and all the way through to early teens, reading brings profound and wide-ranging benefits that can have a lifelong positive impact on children’s lives.

Children who read are more likely to be happier, healthier, and experience better mental wellbeing and self-esteem. They feel more secure and develop deep bonds with parents and carers.

  • Shared reading in the early years supports the development of a child's attachment (how safe, secure and trusting their feel around their parent or carer). Attachment is essential to a child's future happiness, social competence, and ability to form meaningful connections. 

  • Shared reading creates opportunities for joint attention and emotional closeness between a child and their parent or carer. The availability of the parent or carer during shared reading contributes to their sense of safety. 

  • Children with secure attachments are more likely to show enthusiasm and attention during shared reading, which motivates their parent/carer to read with them more frequently and reinforces their opportunity to feel safe, secure and protected.

  • It is the emotional aspects of shared reading (cuddling, smiling, singing and laughing) that boosts a child's brain activities needed to forge secure attachment, not the parent or carer's reading skill.

They have better sleep and lead healthier lifestyles. 

  • Children aged 3-5 who are read to at bedtime sleep longer. Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of children, impacting their growth, motor skills, attention, behavioural regulation, memory, mood, and resilience.

  • Children aged 11-14 who read for pleasure have healthier lifestyles. They are less likely to try cigarettes or alcohol, and eat more fruit, irrespective of their family background.

They have a better foundation for healthy social-emotional development. 

  • Reading leads to children's improved social skills, attention, and fewer negative behaviours. Shared reading increases parental warmth and reduces parental stress, enabling them to provide the sensitive and nurturing interactions their children need to feel secure thrive.

They have better mental wellbeing and self-esteem. 

  • By providing escapism and relaxation, reading can act as a protective factor against the adversity some children face. Children who regularly read for pleasure have better self-esteem and lower levels of emotional problems (such as hyperactivity and inattention) than those who don't. Children who read have higher levels of mental wellbeing and happiness.

Children who read are more likely to do better at school and make more progress across the curriculum: They have better brain development, attentional and cognitive ability. 

  • Children's brains experience the most growth in their first five years, when their brains are the most responsive to their environment. Stimulation from reading books, playing, talking, and singing with a parent/carer serves an important neurological function, enhancing cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth.

  • Shared reading among children from low-income backgrounds enhances healthy brain activation in language, attention, memory, self-control, and adjustment. Reading has a long-lasting positive benefit on brain development. An enriching learning environment in their early years can have an impact on a child four decades later.

  • Reading for pleasure unlocks academic success across the curriculum. A child who is read to age 1-2 scores higher in reading, spelling, grammar, and numeracy stills at age 8-11. 

  • The impact of shared reading on literacy is long-lasting. Children who are read to frequently at age five are over half a school year ahead in reading performance at age 15, compared to those who are read to infrequently or not read to at all.

They have better knowledge about the world and are more ready for learning.

  • Children who start reading early and continue reading throughout childhood have greater general knowledge. Reading helps to kickstart and sustain a child's ongoing learning journey. 

  • Reading enhances educational attainment. By feeding into cognitive skill development, developing forms of reasoning, complex concepts and imaginative richness, reading supports children to develop problem solving and their intellectual capacities.

  • They have better language development and literacy skills.

Shared reading provides unparalleled opportunities for a child's verbal interactions with their parent or carer. This cannot be replicated by other activities such as playing with toys, mealtimes or arts and crafts.

  • Shared reading offers children exposure to rich and novel vocabulary in meaningful contexts and facilitates word learning. Because the focus is entirely on the story, children do not have to extract new words from the stream of ongoing activities like they would in a free-play setting. 

  • There are profound benefits of shared reading for a child's language and literacy outcomes at the start of and throughout school. These include vocabulary size, oral language skills, print awareness, word identification and comprehension skills. These benefits are often found to be independent of family background.

Children who read are more likely to develop empathy and creativity. Empathy refers to the ability to value, feel, understand and respect other people's experiences. 

  • Stories can offer children a realistic and authentic 'mirror' of their own lives and experiences and a 'window' to view the experiences of others. When children are emotionally involved in a story, they feel connected to and see their lives as part of the wider human experience. This can be transformative when it comes to developing their empathy. 

  • Children who read books that offer opportunities to empathise with the characters have increased levels of empathy, especially towards stigmatised groups.

They are more imaginative and creative. 

  • Engagement with stories nurtures the disposition and skillset that are fundamental to a child's creativity throughout childhood. Stories with imaginative and magical elements enable children's minds to transcend their immediate context, freeing them from a fixed way of thinking. 

  • By constantly formulating and reformulating their expectations of what might happen in a story, young readers practice mental flexibility, an openness to new situations and interpretations and problem-solving. 

  • A story can also invite dramatisation, opening up children's imagination to give shape to, voice or the opportunity to act it out. 

  • Children who are read to at age three make greater progress in creative development at the end of Reception than those who are not.

Encourage your child to read daily.

Just a few minutes a day can have a big impact on children of all ages.

Read aloud regularly.

  • Try to read to your child every day. It is a special time to snuggle up and enjoy a story. Stories matter and children love re-reading them and poring over the pictures. Try adding funny voices to bring characters to life.

Encourage reading choice.

  • Give children lots of opportunities to read different things in their own time - it does not just have to be books. There’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comics, magazines, recipes and much more. Try leaving interesting reading material in different places around the home and see who picks it up.

Read together.

  • Choose a favourite time to read together as a family and enjoy it. This might be everyone reading the same book together, reading different things at the same time, or getting your children to read to each other. This time spent reading together can be relaxing for all.

Create a comfortable environment.

  • Make a calm, comfortable place for your family to relax and read. Sit close together and put your own phone away. Encourage your child to hold the book themselves and/or turn the pages. 

Make use of your local library

  • Libraries across the UK offer a wide range of free services including the loan of books and magazines, local history resources, eBooks, eMagazines, eAudiobooks, eNewspapers, computer use, internet access and Wi-Fi.

You can find out more information about where your nearest library is and how to join at: 

Talk about books.

  • This is a great way to make connections, develop understanding and make reading even more enjoyable. Start by discussing the front cover and talking about what it shows and suggests the book could be about. Then talk about what you have been reading and share ideas. 

  • You could talk about something that happened that surprised you, or something new that you found out. You could talk about how the book makes you feel and whether it reminds you of anything.

Bring reading to life.

  • You could try cooking a recipe you have read together. Would you recommend it to a friend? Alternatively, play a game where you pretend to be the characters in a book, or discuss an interesting article you have read.

Make reading active.

  • Play games that involve making connections between pictures, objects and words, such as reading about an object and finding similar things in your home. 

  • You could organise treasure hunts related to what you are reading. 

  • Try creating your child’s very own book by using photographs from your day and adding captions.

Read with children in a way that suits them.

  • You know your child best and you will know the best times for your child to read. If they have special educational needs and disabilities then short, creative activities may be the way to get them most interested. 

The Wise Owl Tutor Blog Kent

Above all, MAKE IT FUN! It doesn’t matter how you read with a child, or what you read, as long as you both enjoy the time together.

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