Reading stories to children, why it is important


When practiced on a regular basis, reading has a number of cognitive and emotional level. Therefore, identifying the factors that promote this activity is of significant interest, in particular to allow the youngest to benefit as early as possible, and in a lasting way, from these benefits.

Among these factors, there is one that can have a particularly early effect on the taste for reading: the fact of reading stories to your child, which is also called shared reading.

Discover the “language of books”

Simple at first glance, this activity can nevertheless generate a strong experience. Let's discover how Maryanne Wolf, professor of child development and cognitive neuroscience in the United States, describes with acuity and sensitivity the phenomenological dimension of this joint activity in the book Proust and the squid :

"Let's imagine the following scene. A child is snuggled up to a loved one and listens intently to the spoken words flowing like a stream, words telling tales of fairies, dragons and giants living in distant lands never before imagined”.

According to the professor, the brain of the child to whom we read stories prepares to read much earlier than we might think. For example, the treatment of words like "elf" or expressions like "once upon a time", which are rarely encountered in ordinary conversation, will familiarize the child at an early stage with the "language of books".

Thus, the two activities that occur in parallel during shared reading, "hearing the written language and feeling a feeling of love", would be "the best foundations of this long learning that no specialist in cognitive science or education cannot implement,” continues Maryanne Wolf.

Develop your oral and written language

Several studies have been conducted in recent decades to determine the effects of shared reading on child development. In meta-analysis published in 2011 in the scientific journal Psychological bulletin, Suzanne Mol and Adriana Bus of Leiden University in the Netherlands listed them.

From the introduction of the article, it is indicated, with supporting references, that shared reading is considered to be one of the most important activities for the development of knowledge prior to subsequent success in reading. The establishment before the age of two of a habit of shared reading would expose the child to a variety of linguistic stimuli which stimulate the development of his language and lay the groundwork for a regular practice of reading.

Thus, children to whom stories have been read frequently enter school with a larger vocabulary and better comprehension skills. This significant effect could be explained, at least in part, by the fact that children's books contain three times more infrequent words than television content or than conversations between adults and children according to Donald Hayes and Margaret Ahrens in a article published in Journal of Child Language in 1988. .

Furthermore, a meta-analysis by Adriana Bus and colleagues, published in 1995 in Review of Educational Research, already showed that 64% of children benefiting from shared reading were the best readers at school, this number dropping to 36% for children not benefiting from it. Thus, shared reading would have a significant impact on the development of children by promoting the skills needed to learn to read and by creating a positive attitude towards reading.

The results of the 2011 meta-analysis go in the same direction by pointing to the positive correlations between shared reading activities with children between 2 and 6 years old and their level of oral language, as well as the extent of their vocabulary and the ability to use it and, finally, the level subsequently reached in reading.

Reading skills and interest

To come back to the links between shared reading and a love of reading, let's look at the results of the study by Elsje van Bergen and her colleagues conducted in the Netherlands and published in 2017 in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The researchers explored the causal links between reading skills and enjoyment of reading, measured by taking into account only reading for leisure at home – and not that of books offered by school – at more of 11 twins with an average age of 000 years.

After first highlighting the significant positive correlation (0,41) between reading skills and the love of reading in these children, the authors of the study carried out an additional statistical analysis which enabled them to conclude that reading skills, which vary from one child to another, determine the taste for reading rather than the reverse.

Thus, according to the results of this study, it is ease with reading that would lead children aged 7-8 years to read more for pleasure and not the taste for reading that would determine reading skills. .

If we now take up all the results described in this article, we find that they support the postulate proposed by Fletcher and Reese in a article published in 2005 in the journal Developmental Review, according to which shared reading will trigger the setting in motion of a spiral causality: shared reading will stimulate the development of language and reading skills, which in turn will stimulate a taste for reading.

Of course, we should not rule out the possibility that shared reading can have a direct effect on the taste for reading. However, the scientific studies published to date lead us not to ignore the fact of considering ease with reading as an intermediate variable between shared reading and a taste for reading.

Frédéric bernard, Lecturer in Neuropsychology, University of Strasbourg

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Evgeny Atamanenko

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