The ‘good behaviour’ benefits of reading to your child

Snuggling up with a good book with your child can boost good behaviour and understanding

The 'good behaviour' benefits of reading to your child

Reading regularly with children can dramatically reduce disruptive behaviour, according to a study carried out at eight primary schools in the London borough of Lambeth by the Institute of Psychiatry. The key to the scheme wasn’t reading in itself, but the amount of time parents spent with children and how they related to them.

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The key to the scheme wasn't reading in itself, but the amount of time parents spent with children and how they related to them.

Parents taking part in the study were invited to attend a parenting skills programme, in which they learnt how to relate to children, using techniques such as focussing on the positive behaviour of a child rather than the negative. More than 100 five-to six-year-olds took part in the ten-week study, and noticeable improvements were shown in their behaviour.

They also gave advice on how to share books with their children, for instance, by switching off mobile phones and taking time to look at pictures, highlighting new vocabulary, discussing the book before the child started to read the words, and avoiding the temptation to correct words.

Help your child to read – from the experts

Keep it simple with babies
“Choose books with simple images and text – remember you are buying the book for your baby, not for yourself” says Rod Campbell, author of Dear Zoo. “Point to objects and say their names slowly, repeating several times. At the end, Go through it again – as often as your baby wants.”

Don’t feel embarrassed by your reading style
“Children don’t care if you’re not a good reader, they just want to hear your voice” says Wendy Cooling, founder of the national Bookstart scheme.

Swap reading duties
“The same story can be a new experience, depending on who is reading it. Remember the value of having grandparents in the home to read, too” says Stephanie Barton, former publishing director at Ladybird.

Make books accessible for children
“Keep a number of books on low tables and ledges” says Dorothy Butler, author of Babies Need Books.

Sit down together
“Your baby will love sitting on your knee, pointing at pictures and making animal noises.” Says author and Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson.

Don’t forget nursery rhymes
“Rhymes should bubble out of your child’s mouth, and once they are entrenched, you will hear how his flow of language has improved” says Butler.

Be flexible
“Your child might be ready to read a storybook, but sometimes he’ll want to go back to a book he liked as a baby, so be sensitive to that” says Rosemary Clarke, head of the Bookstart scheme.

Continue to read to your child
“Your child’s attention to a story will be much greater than his reading ability” says Clarke. “When his appetite to reach new goals in his own reading”.

Let your child read what he wants
“Comics, magazines – it all helps to consolidate reading skills” says Cooling. Parents moan about Where’s Wally?, but at least it encourages concentration”.

Don’t underestimate your child
Author of the Mr Gum stories, Andy Stanton, says “You don’t have to tell children what the jokes are”. He also reminds parents not to patronise a budding reader “Children know when they are being conned. Great stories happen when you turn over some strangely-shaped rocks and see what’s underneath them. Children can cope with unexpected plot twists”.

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{This article previously appeared in a printed issue of Junior Magazine}