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The gift that every parent must give

PUBLISHED: 07:05 12 January 2018

Give your children the gift of loving books and reading and it'll spark a lifetime of enjoyment, says Nick Conrad.

Give your children the gift of loving books and reading and it'll spark a lifetime of enjoyment, says Nick Conrad.

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The magic of reading to, and with, children is something every parent must never forget, says Nick Conrad.

Can you recall the enjoyment of learning how to read? Which book first captured your imagination? Being read to is something I remember fondly. Sitting in bed we’d read a couple of chapters, stopping at a poignant part with the promise of returning to the story at tomorrow’s bedtime, which helped build suspense. The narrator was my grandmother. She would bring stories to life with her wonderful and colourful readings, often mimicking accents. I’d listen with anticipation, amusement and excitement. Many children are sadly missing out at home. Further, when a child can read, parents are not progressing their children’s skills by reading with them.

My daughter is three and learning to read. It’s a joy to watch her pick up a book and thumb her way through. We talk about the pictures and I slowly read the words to her. I appreciate how her little brain soaks up all the information and starts to recognise how the letters go together to form sounds. This brilliant and most enjoyable exercise is mutually rewarding. As a busy parent it’s all too easy to forget how important it is to put time aside to support our children’s learning. I’ve realised I’m not reading as much as I want to with my daughter, January is a great time to bring about a change.

It’s not just books - this year I’ve started with a resolution to make sure I spend at least three hours each evening with the children. A mixture of reading, classes and swimming populate my diary. Bopping around the Northrepps village hall in a children’s dance class wouldn’t previously be my idea of fun, but I can see the benefit for Erin, who loves it. The excellent teacher, Georgie, injects fun, enthusiasm and exercise into her classes.

In this hectic world it is so easy to allow our time to be swallowed up by various commitments, not spending valuable time with our children. Might this be one of the reasons why children are struggling to read?

This week a Norfolk-based international book publishing and distribution company has warned that spending on books in schools across the county is being cut. King’s Lynn-based Booklife have launched an initiative to help schools buy books. The company claims cash for UK school libraries has been cut by more than 70 per cent in recent years. In truth, many trustees and parents’ groups are tasked with filling their school libraries. Recently I’ve had reason to visit some primary schools and found libraries to be at the very heart of what they do – and incredibly well stocked, too. That said, I welcome any initiative which helps schools, and nobody should devalue the importance of literacy for our children’s learning and confidence.

I believe the ‘national vocabulary’ is in decline – in both quality and range of words utilised. Adopting simplified sentences, we’ve become lazy with the variation and creativity of our speech. In turn, our understanding of various words and phrases has declined. All of this leads to an uncreative simplicity. Wordsmiths have inventively played with the English language for years - but an audience with a decreasing ability to decipher the message doesn’t bode well for the development of our language.

I can vouch for how rewarding reading with our children can be. It’s a lovely bonding experience where we help make memories together. The world of books we explore together with youngsters helps to inspire and encourage.

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