Reading aloud to children daily gives them a head start in life.
Reading to children paves the way for their success in adulthood, building important social, psychological and cognitive skills in ways that positively affect them and their communities.
The importance of reading has been highlighted by government, with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address prioritising the improvement of reading comprehension in early childhood education, and the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga launching the National Reading Coalition.
The skill of reading, and reading for meaning, is learned at a young age and requires the efforts of parents, teachers and the community.
At the award-winning Kidz Fountain Day Care Centre in Norkem Park, Johannesburg, reading is an important part of the daily activities, and reading time is one of the most exciting parts of the day, said Grade R teacher Boniswa Khuse.
Khuse, who reads to the children once or twice a day, depending on the school schedule, has observed the power of reading in the development of her learners.
“Research has shown that children who are read to daily are a year ahead of those who are not being read to. Reading helps to increase their reading capacity and allows them to use their imaginations and tell stories. It also helps them build vocabulary, gives them the confidence to speak and improves their cognitive skills,” she said.
Khuse observed how reading to her learners has affected their ability to make sense of the world.
“I ask them questions in class, and I can hear from their answers that they are using reasoning learned from the stories we have read. For example, they know from Little Red Riding Hood that talking to strangers can get them into trouble. They are applying this logic in real life to solve problems.”
Her learners also display good behavioural and communication skills in class, because reading time had taught them to settle down quickly and talk using soft and loud voices inside and outside the classroom.
The learners at Kidz Fountain come from diverse backgrounds and speak different languages. Khuse said reading to them in English has improved their English-speaking abilities.
She encourages parents to read to their children at home.
“Parents should encourage their children and make reading a positive experience.”