Ever since they are in our womb, our children can listen to every word we say. For nine months there is sound they are more familiar with than our own voice and that of the people around us. Once they are born, they are drawn to mum's voice as if it were the sweetest melody on earth. I still recall how my little daughter listened to me and stretched her little arm trying to touch my lips when I talked. Ever since the first day we came home from hospital I took the habit of reading stories to her. I sat with her on the rocking chair and then I started reading the chosen story for that day. In the early days, everybody agrees that it does not matter what you read to them. The most important gift you can present your child with during those early stages is the sound of your voice. I mostly read stories with rhymes like "Mother Goose" and "The Cat in the Hat", but I also read lengthier ones which I have adored ever since I was a kid, like "Little Women" and the whole series of "The Chronicles of Narnia".
Experts agree that children do not understand what we tell them, but what she could pick up by listening to my voice was my passion for reading. And she could also see that our reading time was something magical and private between both of us. Our reading sessions continue now that she's about to be two. But there's a difference now: she's the one picking the books and turning the pages. And she helps me finishing some of the sentences in the stories! Sometimes she just grabs a book and the way she holds it, looks at it and turns the pages, you could swear she's reading. It may be too early to say yet, but I think she'll certainly love reading.
Apart from the marvelous bond that will flourish between you and your children, reading aloud to them will help them to be better prepared to cope with the literacy tasks that they will encounter once they go to school. Listening to tales and stories time and again will help your children to gain an insight about how narratives work, making it easier to discover how events can be organised in time. Moreover, it builds up their vocabulary, which they will be able to retreive once they start reading and writing.
If you are bringing your child using a minority language, reading aloud to them gains even greater importance: it provides your children with dear exposure to the language in a unique environment. They can learn to love the language and the culture associated with it while their language skills are being encouraged. They will always treasure those precious moments they spend with you while sharing those stories and the language can be forever associated with happy and pleasant moments. If you can't find books in your own language, you can always read "wordless" or picture books while inventing your own story. The great thing with these books is that you can create your own story and you will soon discover your child joins in the telling.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking... 15 minutes doesn't sound like much time, so those days when you are feeling absolutely bone-weary, wouldn't it be possible to call the reading off? You may even tell yourself that nobody is going to find out. But you should think twice before "playing hooky" and prioritise what really matters. Aren't your children your top priority? Then you should make sure you arrive home with plenty of energy to devote to them. Though it may feel quite a daunting task at times, don't look at your reading time with them as a dreary task you "have to do", but feel the joy of sharing those special moments with them now they look up to you with absolute devotion. You will be grateful you did it in the long run and there are also rewards you can experience right now! Isn't it just wonderful seeing how your child is looking at you spellbound as the story unfolds? Doesn't it just fill you with joy and energy every time your child gasps at some of the events in the story or burst into peals of laughter?