A common and effective way to help your little one get a head start in life is to read to your child. All parents want their kids to be successful, and they do whatever it takes to prepare them for challenges in life ahead.
So they give their children nutritious food, buy educational toys and select a preschool with a nurturing environment among the many other things they do.
Perhaps one thing most parents do to stimulate their child’s intelligence and knowledge is encourage reading. Even if their children are too small to understand still, reading encourages language development and speech.
One of the most popular times to read to children is during their bedtime. This reading ritual is one that fosters bonding between parents and their child and also helps kids develop a love for reading.
But what if all this time you were reading to your little one in the wrong way?
Neuroscientists think that many parents are missing out on an important trick that can make reading so much more beneficial to their kids.
By using this method, parents can even use reading to make their kids more successful at life later but nurturing a crucial value that we’ll tell you about soon.
So what is this trick?
We all know that reading to your kids is important. But neuroscientist Erin Clabough explains that many parents (unknowingly) do just the bare minimum when it comes to reading to their children.
Clabough says that instead of reading to their children, parents need to read with them, encouraging them to get “inside” the story.
Writing in Psychology Today, Clabough explains that reading often becomes a repetitive bedtime ritual done with the intention of making children sleepy, or “so they can have something to write down on their school reading logs”. She says when does this way, it’s only the tiniest bit different from placing kids in front of the TV.
“We’ve been sucked in by the plot, and we’re dying to know what happens. But we’re still on the outside, watching someone else make decisions. The real magic happens inside our own heads when we try on someone else’s life,” Clabough writes.
When a parent reads in this manner, getting ‘inside’ the story along with their child, they are in fact promoting the development of intellectual empathy (the ability to perceive objectively how other people see and experience things), which can help lead to success later in life.
How do you read to your child?
According to research, those who read literary fiction learn to better understand the thoughts and motivations of others. And while reading literary fiction might be too advanced for little ones, you can use the following “child-friendly” tips to promote this understanding nevertheless:
- Embrace dramatic pauses. Use appropriate facial expressions to ‘show’ your child what the words are trying to say
- Interrupt the story at appropriate points to encourage your child to put themselves in the mind of the characters.
- Encourage them to solve the problem before the character does by asking them how they would find a solution to it.
Even if you read the same story to your child over and over again, by adopting these tips and this reading method, you can give your child hundreds of different scenarios, promoting him to think, problem-solve and imagine in hundreds of different and creative ways.
Clabough says encouraging children to make decisions while they’re reading amounts to decision-making practice, which “results in synaptic changes and strengthening of neuronal pathways in your child.”
Ultimately, your child not just becomes a better reader, but also a more effective person with heightened intellectual empathy. She writes that such people often become “better bosses, co-workers, negotiators, and friends.”
So parents, try incorporating these ideas into the way you read to your child starting from today, knowing that you are making a significant difference to their lives.
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