Children enjoy being read to from an early age

Feb 2012
Benefits of reading to young children
The Bookstart charity acknowledges that children benefit from being read to at the earliest possible opportunity.

Even after just five months, a newborn baby may already be beginning to make the journey into the world of sounds by learning to distinguish between the voices of their parents.

But the question of when this initial foray into the hearing world should translate into talking and then reading, or vice versa, is something that educational experts are reluctant to put a timeline on.

Lilian Katz, a professor of education at Illinois University, gave a talk at an international conference on nursery schooling at Oxford University in 2007, arguing that children under the age of seven were too young to learn to read and write.

Formerly the President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and a leading figure in the field of early childhood education, Katz made the following assertion;
'Teaching younger children can look OK in the short term but in the long term children who are taught early are not better off. For a lot of children five will be too early.'

This view may be shared by some EU countries such as Denmark where formal education doesn't begin until the age of 6.

But while the reading age of children is still a contentious subject, the Bookstart charity's free reading programme for children under 5 acknowledges that children will enjoy and, more than likely, benefit from being read to at the earliest possible opportunity. The scheme offers three packs of books for each child at seven months, 18 months and three years.

Research carried out by Dr Bernado as early as the 1930s revealed that children of a pre-school age who are read to frequently fare better throughout their lives than those who weren't. Successive studies have also gone on to support Dr Bernado's findings.

Jenny Tiler, Publishing Director of Usborne books, which specialises in children's books, offers parents the following advice;
'In the early days it's important to get them used to learning the rhythms and patterns that go with reading. Once you've engaged them, and introduced the idea of turning pages and following stories, you have them primed to learn more.'