Everywhere teachers and parents look there is a documentary, article or blog hammering one main topic: What is the effect of technology on our children? The debate rages, with both sides pontificating, leaving all of us in ‘no man’s land’.The expectation of technological integration is real and ever present.
However, a key piece of the puzzle that continues to elude the debate is how do we ‘ready’ our children to integrate in a now technologically driven world, critically and positively. I say read, read and read some more. Teachers all around the world can relate and willingly share their observations of the students and the changes they witness as the years pass. One such observation that all teachers readily tell is recognizing (usually within the first week) those in their class that have experienced the idea of story, that have been read to and who are encouraged to read. Back in the day, says the old, grey-haired teacher, the class easily divided into a 70/30 split whereby the majority of pupils arrived at school with a plethora of experience of story.
Within the last decade however, the shift is in the other direction and sadly children arrive at school less confident, less prepared and with significantly less independent ability to ‘hear’ story. The joy of sharing a story is best compared with the joy and human need of sharing a meal. Sadly, we are missing both; but that discussion is for another day. Reading remains essential to learning. Fact. The ability to read critically is a learned skill. Fact. This skill can only be developed and nurtured through experience – the experience of story! There are a million reasons that contribute to the loss of story in the home and even more excuses, many legitimate in their own right.
Ask educators around the world if there would be one thing they would change and it would be to ignite ‘shared’ story in the home. Feel that you are a poor story teller? Then listen to a story using the ever-present technology that is at your fingertips, but, listen TOGETHER. What makes reading to a child so powerful? How does it work that it should be elevated to such a necessary standard for a young person? By bringing reading and the love of story into your home you will be igniting and developing life long skills that not only develop readiness but allow for the development of self-awareness and confidence. I challenge anyone to argue with that!
So, what are they key benefits that we can give our children? 1. Words, Words Words: by reading to your child you allow your child to ‘hear’ and build a wider range of vocabulary. They develop both receptive and expressive language skills and are better able to express concrete feelings and emotions. A wider vocabulary enables your child to better grasp school topics, subject specific language and promotes interaction and participation. This goes for single language learners and multilingual learners.
Brain Growth: Yes, you read that correctly. The more you read the more neuron growth and connectivity. Translated…. Your child’s brain growth and development is directly related to their exposure to story and the act of being read to by another ‘person’.
2. Support the Development of a Life-Long Reader: Arguably the single most important activity for building critical thinking skills.
3. Improved Behavior: School behavior is undeniably connected to attention span and concentration. Reading stories, even a 10-minute story is the path to the development of both these school readiness and sustainability skills.
4. Physical Closeness and Emotional Bonding: A regular shared story experience promotes and encourages both the physical connection between parent (role model) and child and the emotional bond that allows human beings to thrive.
5. Develops the Capacity for Empathy: The opportunity to live vicariously through story characters and gain understanding of how and who these characters are helps to develop empathy. This single habit, empathy, develops and creates smart, healthy and kind kids! The single greatest change in education has been the shift from ‘teaching’ information to ‘teaching’ skills.
Skills that enable, encourage and develop well rounded, emotionally equipped people who critically navigate the world around them. The single greatest constant is the power of story and the skill to ‘hear’ all there is to hear. So, do yourself and your child a favor… Read, read and read some more!