I recently went on some training for work. The course focused on helping children to read, write and spell. No easy task! Thoughts and advice on the most effective systems and approaches change all the time, but the fact that some children are always going to find it easier to learn these things has probably not changed. There are, of course, many reasons for this and anyone involved in education will know exactly what these are but one thing that strikes me is the importance of the written and spoken word in a child's early development. It is no secret that children learn by example, copying the important adults around them.
Reading of bedtime stories may well have gone out of fashion of late but children who are introduced to the amazing world of stories from a young age are far more likely to enjoy books as they grow up. Having spent several years working with nursery aged children you can definitely see which children have easy access to books and which don't. They are the ones in the book corner, eagerly turning the pages of picture books and becoming engrossed in the pictures. They may 'read' the story just by looking at the pictures or by retelling a familiar tale. They don't get bored by reading the same book over and over again the familiar is comforting and safe and it is how they learn. Reading to a child also helps promote their listening skills and extends their vocabulary; important skills they will need to be successful in school.
Later, as they learn to read for themselves, they are gaining invaluable knowledge that will help them to write and spell. Using phonic knowledge (decoding of letter sounds) to break down words to spell or blend sounds to read. Books both fiction and non-fiction can spark their curiosity and fuel their imagination.
I imagine that pretty much everyone reading this post will already know the importance of books and reading as you are probably a writer yourself! As someone who writes for children this is a sobering thought, we have a responsibility to our young audience to get it right. The stories and characters we create could have a profound effect on a child's early development as well as their future love of reading.
Have you ever felt this responsibility? Are you conscious of the messages you send when you write - whether for adults of children?