Reading aloud to young children is great for their literacy, but studies show that young children can learn more vocabulary from conversation at the dinner table, according to The Family Dinner Project.
They say, children who eat dinner with their families have better skills for developing literacy than those who don’t eat with their families.
Kate Stephens, Devon County Council's Head of Devon’s Public Health Nursing team, agrees. She says that making space and time when families come together, which could be mealtimes or car journeys for example, is vital to a child’s development.
“Children need lots of face-to-face interaction to develop their speaking and listening skills, and by showing them that what they have to say is worth listening to, you’ll encourage them to share more with you,” she said.
“Reading aloud to children is extremely important for lots of reasons and is always encouraged, but talking to your toddler as you go about everyday tasks, or encouraging conversation while preparing or eating a meal, are all good building blocks for a child’s development.”
The Council has launched a new website specifically for parents with young children aged under five, with a wide range of tips and advice from pregnancy right through to a child’s fifth year, including encouragement to make the most of mealtimes and other time together to help develop children’s pre-school literacy.
The website also suggests games are a fun way to encourage children to practice talking, and provides examples to get parents and carers started.
“There is a lot for parents, and soon-to-be parents, to know and learn in their child’s first few years,” said Kate Stephens.
“And while it is a very special time, it can also be an anxious time for many parents. Babies and children don’t come with instructions, and while there are plenty of books and videos to help parents along the way, no two children are the same.”
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services said:
“We’re developing three websites, with this first one aimed at supporting parents and carers through the first five years, and to encourage them to look after their own health and wellbeing as well as their children’s.
“This website focuses on support during pregnancy, with tips and advice right though to caring for baby, toddler and pre-school-age children. Our next website will focus on support for parents of primary school and into secondary school-age children. And our third will focus on support for parents and carers of teenagers.”
“This new online resource is an excellent reference guide to support parents and carers, and to complement the team’s work in local communities.”