Reading sparks the imagination

This month at Sounds good to me, we’ve been looking at the value of literacy, and in particular why it’s important to introduce related skills during the preschool years in order to give kids an advantage when they begin formal school learning.

We’ve discussed literacy as a skill which opens doors to knowledge and opportunities such as health and jobs, and how a regular storytime introduces children to new concepts and ideas. Speech pathologist Anne Williams talked about the concepts of print children should be familiar with by the time they begin school, and how reading to a child regularly can help them learn these concepts.

This includes things like knowing how to hold a book, how to care for it, knowing how to turn pages, understanding where the story starts and ends, and becoming familiar with terms such as ‘word’, ‘author or ‘pages. It is also about understanding that the spoken words in the story are represented on the page by letters.

“That 10 minutes you spend with a child or a group of children, sharing a book, is really helping them to develop their language, their cognition and their reading skills,” Anne said during this month’s free webinar.

Anne also spoke about the importance of modelling book reading to children. She noted that children who were read to everyday were performing at a level equal to those 12 months older. 

Reading to your child expands their vocabulary and helps them understand the structure of words and sentences. A 2019 study found that children whose parents read them 5 books a day will enter school having heard 1.4 million words more than those who were never read to. Even just reading one book a day with a child will introduce them to around 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.

“The word gap of more than 1 million words between children raised in a literacy-rich environment and those who were never read to is striking,” said Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University.

Stories also help children distinguish between the real and make believe, improve their social and communication skills and can help them understand strong emotions. It is an excellent opportunity for parents and early educators to bond with the child. Anne Williams said frequent reading helps parents and educators to become more in tune with the child’s language and vocabulary skills.

Stories are also a bridge to the imaginary. They encourage curiosity and visual thinking. This provides the child with a drive to keep learning and the creativity to try new things and problem solve. Imagination and the willingness to try new ways of doing things help children develop critical thinking skills.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution,” Albert Einstein said.

As a school readiness program, Sounds good to me puts children’s creativity and imagination to good use – helping them develop phonological awareness skills through play-based activities. These skills are a strong predictor of success in reading down the line. We want to give children a head start for school to ensure they will not be left behind, but instead will reach their full potential.