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Six reasons why you should read to kids

As well as helping children relax, a nightly bedtime story boosts little ones' learning and improves their bonding with parents. Lisa Salmon finds out more

Strong relationships: reading can nurture closeness
Strong relationships: reading can nurture closeness

By Lisa Salmon

Reading a bedtime story to a child has benefits for the child and the person reading. "Reading a regular bedtime story to children is a simple activity that encourages children to enjoy reading and gets them into good reading habits that set them up for the future," says Judith Parke, of the National Literacy Trust (NLT).

"With hectic day and evening schedules, there's the constant irresistible lure of the tablet, which pulls family members into isolated technological bubbles," adds child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson. "Set aside a few minutes to read a story to, or with, your child, and then have a quick chat about what they liked about it and what they felt when listening to it.

"That small effort will help boost your child's sense of wellbeing, bring you closer together and add a warm and nurturing experience to family life."

Here, the National Literacy Trust (literacytrust.org.uk) and booksellers The Book People, who have found six out of 10 parents dedicate time every evening to read bedtime stories to their children, outline six reasons why reading before bed is so beneficial.

1. It relaxes children and improves wellbeing

The NLT has found children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have good mental wellbeing than children who don't enjoy it. Parke points out that kids love to snuggle up with a book at bedtime and research shows that seven in 10 children say bed is their favourite place to read.

2. It helps children learn

Reading aloud to children stimulates their imagination, helps them learn and develops their listening and language skills by exposing them to a range of words they may not be familiar with, says The Book People. This is hugely beneficial to children's progression at school as it helps develop their concentration, memory, listening and imagination in a fun and creative way.

3. It boosts parent-child bonding

The research found more than half of parents (60%) use books as a way to get their children to open up to them, to find out how they're feeling and spark conversations. And 54% of parents believe setting time aside to read to their children at bedtime brings them closer together and is vital for bonding.

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4. It makes children happier than screen time

Many parents believe it's important to encourage children to switch off from the digital world and enjoy books instead. The Book People says its research shows 90% of children are happiest when reading and writing, rather than watching their favourite cartoon or playing the latest computer games.

5. It encourages independent reading

When you read bedtime stories with your child, it makes them more likely to read by themselves, often sparking a love of books. "Bedtime is the perfect opportunity to get your child reading regularly," says Parke.

6. It inspires children

The power of reading allows children to transport their minds to faraway fictional worlds and live the lives of characters in their imagination. It can also spark inspiration and encourage them to create stories of their own.

The Book People is running a Bedtime Story competition in partnership with Save the Children. Young writers aged 5 to 11 are invited to write a 200-800 word story on the theme of feelings and send it to The Book People at thebookpeople.co.uk/bedtimestory by November 8. Entries will be chosen by head judge and author Giovanna Fletcher. The winner will have their story illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Little Tiger. They'll also win £250 of books for them and £250 of books for their school

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