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6 essential skills children develop when you read with them more

Brought to you by Mike Hodgkiss

When you reminisce back to the good old days, can you remember reading your favourite bedtime stories over and over again?

A good book can transport you away and help children learn to use the power of their imagination to raise their thinking to a higher level. However in the modern age, children are more exposed to apps, gaming and social networking than books. With children potentially addicted to digital devices, spending more time on digital technology than reading, could this be impacting childhood development?

Children of the past were masters of imaginary games and created their own play that didn’t require costly equipment or parental supervision. We all know today’s world is very different. So it’s even more crucial teachers and parents spend time helping young children and ensuring they do not miss out on developing essentials skills through reading. In fact, research states we should not stop reading with our children even once they are able to read independently. Further studies have proven children who read in their spare time develop intellectually at a faster rate than other children.

So how are we helping children develop by reading to them? Here are 6 ways.

1)    Strengthening Communication Skills

Effective communication skills are fundamental to success in many aspects of life. Reading with children one-on-one gives them an opportunity to express themselves. Within the journey of a story children are able to understand the interactions between characters and share their thoughts, feelings and communicate this with you during story time. Children learn to listen, be aware of situations in a story and other people’s emotions.

2)    Improve Language Development

Early reading has proven to help young children grasp important language skills as they approach school age. Reading aloud can also aid their cognitive development in language learning, and activate brain areas relating to narrative comprehension as well as mental imagery. It’s important to give the child an enjoyable experience during story time. Reading for pleasure (discovering the story together, talking about it, and looking at the pictures) can help increase focus, the capacity to pay attention and improve language development in children.

3)    Logical Thinking Skills

Reading can allow children to develop empathy to different people in different situations, differing cultures, backgrounds and ways of life. Logical thinking helps a person recognise a particular situation in order to use reasoning to come to a conclusion. Reading with children can enable them to better understand abstract concepts and apply logic to various scenarios. Children are able to then relate scenarios in books to everyday life and use good judgement in particular situations.

4)    Develop Emotional Intelligence

Reading is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that 6 minutes of reading can be enough to reduce stress levels by 68%. As children mature and potentially face stressful experiences, reading can help them develop understanding of how to deal with their emotions through relevant stories. For example, if a child is nervous about starting a new school, reading a story with them about this topic can help ease the transition and help them understand their nerves are normal when facing a new experience such as this.

5)    Enhanced Concentration and Discipline

Young children may find it initially difficult to sit still during story time and become easily distracted. But eventually they begin to enjoy this time dedicated to reading and learn to stay put for the duration of the book. Through this they are able to develop better self-discipline, boost concentration and help increase memory retention, all of which will serve well in school and throughout their adult life.

6)    Gain Enjoyment from Learning

Educators and supply teachers with a passion for their teaching can help children view books as an indulgence and exposing them at a young age to reading will aid a positive attitude towards learning. Not only will they gain enjoyment from good quality time spent with parents or teachers, they establish learning as an enjoyable experience. They are more likely to choose books over digital devices and other forms of entertainment as they mature.

It’s worth the effort to share and enjoy reading experiences with children from an early age and beyond. Even if parents find themselves consistently busy day-to-day, it’s important to take the time perhaps at the end of each day and create a space to help their children develop essential skills through reading with them.

About the author

Mike Hodgkiss, editor of, is a former deputy head for 20 years. With 36 years teaching experience, Mike has led and coordinated training for staff in many aspects of teaching, learning and leadership in the UK and Europe.