The Importance of Books and Reading in Early Learning

The last two decades have witnessed a transformation in thinking about the development of children during their pre-school early years. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s researchers began to investigate the importance of the early years on a child’s overall development of learning skills. These studies challenged the belief that academic learning capabilities developed only at school age. Indeed, it was demonstrated that children who went through pre-school learning programmes consistently demonstrated improvements in academic achievement in their later formal education.

The recognition of ‘early learning’

These early studies sparked widespread interest in pre-school education; if children can enhance their learning abilities at an early age, it was asked, what is the best way to nurture these competences and skills? Research indicates that children who engage in purposeful play and structured activities acquire a range of skills and abilities that provide a strong foundation for later learning and development.

A well designed early learning programme can, for example, nurture social and emotional development by helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, a respect for others, and a positive desire to learn. Story telling and reading activities can help develop language and literacy skills by supporting proficiency in communicating, speaking and listening, being read to and beginning to read and write. And problem solving activities can help children develop their confidence and aptitude in reasoning and numeracy skills. With a strong grounding in these areas, children demonstrate a real aptitude for learning when they begin formal education and go on to long term achievement in their later childhood and adulthood.

Acquiring skills in the early years

Language and communication skills are vital to a child’s emotional and personal development as they develop a sense of self and their relationship to others. Exposure to stories helps to enrich the imagination and provide knowledge of a range of experiences that a child can draw on to give them confidence in their daily encounters with the world.

Literacy skills provide a child with the building blocks necessary for reading and writing and learning more generally. Through exposure to books and stories, babies and toddlers acquire the vital preliminary tools for learning to read and write.

Firstly, they equip themselves with a sizeable spoken vocabulary which helps them to listen, understand and remember what they hear.

Secondly, children at a very young age start to become aware of the existence of books. Toddlers and even small babies will turn the pages of storybooks, and look at the pictures in them. Soon afterwards, parents can begin to read to their children so pre-schoolers become aware of books and begin to enjoy stories.

Thirdly, children become aware of what a book is and how to handle it, i.e. that print looks different to pictures, that we read from top to bottom of a page and from left to right, and spoken vocabulary is linked to print.

Finally, children develop specific skills for learning to read: what alphabet letters look like and sound like, and that when put together in a certain way, they make up words.


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This entry was posted in Child Brain Development, Early Learning, Parenting & Education, Preschool & Kindergarten.

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