Reading with your child gives them an incredible advantage when it comes to expressing themselves and processing their emotions. Here Isabell Fisher, co-founder of Little Hands Learning, explains the vast advantages of books and suggests some titles to dig into with your little ones.
Stories can transport us to magical places away from the stresses of daily life and can often teach our children emotional intelligence. Books can also offer a lovely way to start conversations about complex situations. Supporting a book with relevant games and activities makes conversations more relaxed and less stressful, and can help you to care for your child’s mental health. Books have many benefits – here are my top five:
Books broaden and grow a child’s vocabulary, which enables them to better communicate how they are feeling. The Journal of Developmental and Behaviour Paediatrics by Jessica Logan A. R. PhD found that if you read one story a day to your child, they will have heard 290,000 more words than a peer who isn’t read to regularly. Read five stories a day and your child will have heard 1.4 million more words than a peer who isn’t read to regularly.
Therefore, the more you read and talk to your children, the better equipped they will be to express through speech or writing how they are feeling.
Life can be unpredictable, and stories can help children process difficult situations they are experiencing themselves. Reading about characters that are going through similar situations can help them understand that they aren’t alone with those feelings and can provide them with guidance based on how others have worked through challenges.
Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls is a beautiful picture book that children will revisit as they come across difficulties and need reminding that with courage and good friends, good times are never far away.
Through a book, a child can explore and learn about their own emotions by observing how the characters experience them. There are some superb picture books that can teach children how emotions may feel, how to identify them and normalise all those emotions we feel on a daily basis. Teaching children from a young age these skills and supporting them to develop coping strategies will provide them with a strong emotional foundation which will increase self-confidence and boost self-esteem.
These books support conversations about emotional intelligence:
- Sometimes: A Book of Feelings by Stephanie Stansbie
- The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas
- The Problem with Problems by Rachel Rooney
Books enable children to see the world through other people’s eyes and better understand the world around them. Books can transport our children into different characters, and this enables them to understand how that character is feeling. Through books we can experience a different gender, ethnicity, culture, and age. This plays an important role in developing understanding and empathy for others.
Books are an excellent way for us all to escape from a stressful day and the same is true for our children. After a full-on day at school or nursery, there is nothing more soothing than curling up with a loved one to read a good book. A study commissioned by Galaxy chocolate through The University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress more effectively than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea. Reading with your child daily is good for both of you.
A book doesn’t need to be focused on emotions for it to benefit a child’s mental health. A book full of silliness, which has a child laughing with someone they love, is sometimes exactly what they need after a long day. The Pirates are Coming by John Condon is a firm bedtime favourite with my son after a tricky day.