We all recognise the benefits of reading. At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we’ve put our pens to paper and compiled a list of all the subtle social, emotional and language boosts a simple ‘bedtime story’ can have. We also prepared a step-by-step guide on how to build a healthy and manageable reading routine for your family!
The Benefits of Reading
- Reading is a bonding experience. Reading with your child helps to nurture your relationship with them. It’s an opportunity to spend exclusive time together without distractions or external pressures. Richardson et al. (2015) found that reading with your child helps them to feel more secure and bonded with their parent as well as helps children absorb new information faster.
- Reading builds language skills. Children who are exposed to a great volume of rich language are given a head start academically and develop stronger language skills (Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder, 2013). This ultimately impacts not only their learning and cognitive development, but also positively influences a child’s communication skills.
- Reading builds coping skills. Setting aside time to read with you child provides a regular forum to contemplate and work through challenges. Reading, looking at pictures and pointing things out provides an opportunity for your child to express themselves as they relate to the characters in the story. This promotes healthy relationships and provides positive ideas and ways to express oneself. For example, a child transitioning to school may benefit from reading a story about another child starting school as walking through the experience in someone else’s shoes can help normalise their own feelings, understand their experiences and build up a set of coping strategies for these experiences.
- Reading is relaxing. iPads, TVs, phones, computer games; it is often impossible to compete with the whizzing, whirring, distracting nature of these devices. Finding time in your day to sit down with your child is a crucial opportunity for quiet reflection and mindfulness. Think of it as a way of “tuning in” as opposed to “tuning out”.
- Reading teaches empathy. Being able to share and understand the feelings of others is a skill crucial to building our social relationships. A study out of Cambridge University (Nikolajeva, 2013) found that reading books about fictional characters can provide excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy. Through reading, a child experiences the feelings of another person in different situations, which helps them develop an understanding of how they feel and think. These skills, when nurtured, help the child to show empathy in real life situations.
So, we now know the benefits, but how can we put this into practice? Here are some pointers that our Psychologists here at Quirky Kid recommend for people looking to transition storytime from a rare occasion to an unmissable part of their daily routine.
Building your Reading Routine
- Timing is crucial. Set reading time to about 30 minutes before the child’s bedtime. Recommended time for a reading session is between 10 and 30 uninterrupted minutes depending on your child’s age and attention span, but follow your child’s interests.
- Get comfy. Make sure your reading space is comfortable and that your child can see, hear and respond easily. Limit the distractions available around you.
- Be prepared. For kids who have trouble sitting still, provide things to keep their little hands busy. Providing paper and crayons to draw with or toys to look at can help, whilst still listening to the story.
- If you don’t like it, ditch it. Select a captivating text that will keep both you and your child engaged. Don’t insist on reading something that you or your child are not enjoying. Everyone tastes are different after all!
- Encourage discussion at every turn. Start with the cover: what do they think the book will be about? At each page: what do they think might happen next? After the book: what happened here? So many lessons can be learned from these mini-recaps!
- Let them try. If your child has begun school, help them to sound out words phonetically and occasionally point to some sight words that they may recognise.
- Don’t try to compete. Very few children, given the choice of watching cartoons, playing games or reading a book, are going to choose books – at least, not until they’ve developed a love of reading. Set a cut-off time for technology and give the child the choice of hearing a story or reading aloud.
- Make it fun. Be as animated as you can whilst reading. This will add to the enjoyment and imagination that goes along with reading, especially for the younger children. Adjust your pace, tone and volume to the story.
Fostering a positive reading environment in the home can provide many benefits for you, your child and your family. Reading with your child not only develops their language and literacy skills, but also helps them develop many foundational skills that will support them throughout their life, including resilience and empathy skills. Setting aside thirty minutes a day to make storytime a regular and enjoyable part of your family routine is one of the best and most valuable times to raise a reader and connect with your child.
For more information about how to support your child and their social, emotional and learning needs consider The Best of Friends Program or contact us with any questions.
For great titles, visit https://therapeuticresources.com.au/
- Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A., & Weisleder, A. (2013). SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Developmental science, 16(2), 234-248.
- Nikolajeva, M. (2013). “Did you Feel as if you Hated People?”: Emotional Literacy Through Fiction. New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, 19(2), 95-107.
- Richardson, M. V., Miller, M. B., Richardson, J. A., & Sacks, M. K. (2015). Literary bags to encourage family involvement. Reading Improvement, 52(3), 126-132.
Following on from our fact-sheet about preparing for kindergarten, below we continue to explore the questions that most parents explore in regards to deciding if their children are actually read for school.
What is school-readiness?
School-readiness refers to the point at which a child is considered “ready” to enter the formal education system.
In previous generations, a child was considered “school ready” when she passed a certain age (for example, if she turns 5 before July 31).
Now, however, an increasing number of parents and schools are rethinking the idea of age-based “school-readiness”. Instead, they believe a child is school ready when she is academically, socially, physically, and emotionally ready to cope with the demands of the classroom and the playground.
To help parents decide if their child is ready for school, or for a new level of school such as Middle school or Secondary school, here are some things to keep in mind.
If you’re sending your child to Kindergarten, ask yourself:
- How well does my child socialize in comparison to same-aged peers?
- Can my child sit and focus when given an activity?
- Does my child respond to set boundaries?
If you’re sending your child to secondary school, ask yourself:
- Is my child mature or immature in comparison to peers?
- Is my child organized and motivated?
- How does my child feel about changing schools?
While it’s impossible to predict any child’s future, it’s important to consider if your child’s development puts her in a position to follow this timeline, or if it puts her in a position where at some point she is likely to be overwhelmed and falling behind.
As repeating grades is not recommended due to the impact of self esteem and friendships, delaying your child’s entry to Kindergarten, Middle School, or Secondary School may be your only chance to ensure that her schooling is appropriate for her development.
Research your child’s school
Before you decide whether or not to send your child to school, it’s a good idea to get a sense of the demands she’ll face by meeting with potential teachers, talking to parents at the school gate and observing students in potential playgrounds.
You are also encouraged to research the school curriculum, standardized testing such as the NAPLAN and the daily routines of the classroom. Ask an administrator at a local school, or contact your school board, to find out these details.
Assess your child’s skills
A child’s development is typically assessed in term of these four (4) categories: academic, social, physical and emotional.
If your child is developing at a similar rate to her peers in these four categories, you may wish to consider advancing her through school on a typical timeline. Children with significant developmental challenges, however, may have difficulty keeping up with their peers. In this case, it may be best to delay starting school until she can successfully cope with the common demands of school life.
At any new school level, your child will have to cope with academic demands.
- Is your child interested in learning?
- How developed are her language and communication skills?
- Does she seem interested in reading, writing, mathematics or creative activities?
- Can she pay attention and sit still for a (relatively) long period of time?
- Does your child show patterns of friendship that are age appropriate?
- Can she cope with conflict?
- How will your child react to unstructured play time at recess and lunch (for Kindergarten) or interacting with students outside her class (secondary school)?
Think about the emotional demands that will be required of your child at the new school level, and ask yourself if she can meet them.
- How does your child cope with setbacks or frustration?
- How often does she require comforting or reassurance?
- How independent is your child when eating, using the toilet, or getting dressed?
Consider your child’s gross and fine motor skills in relation to the physical tasks required by the new level of school. Can she independently do zippers or buttons to manage her school uniform?
- How does she find writing or using a keyboard? Does she have any disability or illness that will affect how she adjusts to school life?
Many children with difficulties in one or more of these four key areas may benefit from starting school at the typical time for their age group if their challenge is effectively addressed either in or out of the classroom.
For example, a child with physical challenges may “catch up” with regular visits with an Occupational Therapist. Social issues are best managed by a Child Psychologist. If you feel your child can handle the demands of school overall, but needs help with one specific area, it might be a good idea to seek support to address any challenges.
Talk to your child’s other caregivers and/or educators
If you’re not sure about your child’s developmental patterns, some of the most useful sources of information are staff at your child’s current school or pre-school. These professionals not only spend a lot of time with your child, but with many other children of the same age.
Get your child tested
If you have significant concerns about your child’s development, it can be a good idea to have your child assessed to measure where she is falling compared to her peers.
Standardized testing such as using the Griffiths Mental Development Scales (GMDS), Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID-III), Stanford Binet (Early SB5) or Wechsler (WPPSI – III) Intelligence Scales will break down different aspects of your child’s development, showing her strengths and weaknesses, as well as normative scores for her age.
If you have any questions or queries about standardized developmental assessments, please give us a call at the Quirky Kid Clinic on 9362 9297.
Information in this factsheet was obtained from interviews with Psychologist Belinda Jones and Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid clinic.
Commencing kindergarten is a very exciting and sometimes scary time for children and parents alike. To ensure your child has an enjoyable and successful transition to school it is important to allow yourself and your child plenty of time to prepare. Below are some tips to assist you.
Things to consider when choosing a school for your child
- Does your child have any specific interests that you would like the school to nurture? This may include sports, music, or languages,
- What facilities does the school provide that will assist your child to reach their full potential?
- Does the school offer any transition to school programs, to assist children and parents to settle into the new community?
- Does the school share the same values as your family with regard to attitude, beliefs, and behaviour? This may include their policies towards punctuality and dress code,
- Do you have religious beliefs, or educational philosophies that you would like the school to share?
- Consider if you have a preference for single sex or co-ed.
- The distance between your home and the school is another important decision, it is important to also consider how your child will get to school.
- Finally, if your child has already established friendships, consider where they are going. Knowing someone at their new school will assist your child in their transition to kindergarten.
Preparing for school
- To ensure your child has an enjoyable and easy transition to school talk to your child about what to expect at school. This includes:
- Talking about the children they already know who will be starting school with them, what it will be like to make new friends, and the many games and activities they will be able to take part in.
- Discussing with your child who will pick them up from school, and reassuring them that someone will be there on time to collect them.
- Practice using their new school bag and lunch box before their first day at school. This will allow your child to get use to opening and closing them, so that it will not be difficult for them when they are at school.
- Practice putting on their school shoes and uniform jacket prior to starting school. This will help them to get use to doing it for themselves.
This is a special time for parents and children, and we hope you enjoy this stage of development with your child.
The Quirky Kid Clinic has social skills and communication program, The Best of Friends™ that assist children and developing key skills prior to kinder garden:
The Quirky Kid Shoppe is full of useful resources. Below are some recommended resources by our psychologists:
Information for this fact sheet was taken from an interview with Child Psychologist Kimberley O’Brien, the Raising Children Network website and the following article.
Chandler, L,K. (1993). Steps in Preparing for Transition: Preschool to Kindergarten. Teaching Exceptional Children. Volume 25, page 52-55.