Verbal celebrates World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is on Thursday 1st February, a day for people all around the globe to “read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people.”

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has shown that reading aloud to children every day helps puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read alouds, regardless of parental income, education level or cultural background. Poorly-literate individuals are less likely to participate in democratic processes and have fewer chances to fully exercise their civil rights.

According to the latest UNESCO report (2016), 758 million adults – two thirds of them women – lack basic reading and writing skills. Among the youth population, female literacy rates have been rising quickly. Nonetheless, three out of five youths lacking basic reading and writing skills are young women. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five than a child born to an illiterate woman. If all children in low-income countries left school literate, 171 million people could move out of poverty.

Parent-child interaction is known as ‘dialogic reading’, with parents act as sounding boards to a child’s ideas and responses. Shared reading in groups can also help aid in lowering anxiety, and boosting self-esteem. Verbal’s Reading Rooms project has been helping bring the joys and benefits of shared reading to the wider public since early 2013, launching as part of Legenderry City of Culture. Since then, Reading Rooms has worked with schools, older people, criminal justice programmes, care homes, disability groups, community centres, Health Trusts and more.

Verbal staff will be sharing some of their favourite childhood books which they enjoyed reading aloud throughout the day’ look out for updates on Verbal’s Facebook page. Below, poet Gaynor Kane and Lagan editor Colin Dardis share their own reminiscences of reading aloud at a child.

Gaynor Kane

My first response when asked the question ‘what is your favourite book which you were read aloud from as a child?’ was Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. I loved the characters, especially Moonface and Saucepan Man and the adventures the children had with these people, when they climbed up the tree. I was round in my parent’s house later the same day and decided to ask them about what they read to me. My Dad quickly responded with an enthusiastic tale of nursery rhymes and a book that was read so often, there came a time when it was unnecessary and we both knew all the rhymes off by heart.

Even before my daughter was born, myself and my husband read to her daily. I still have The Magic Faraway Tree and we both read it to her in the evenings throughout the pregnancy, along with other books. When she was a toddler I read her stories most nights. I also would read her non-fiction and particularly liked the Usbourne range. We had one about sharks and this very quickly became one of my daughter’s favourites. I asked her what she remembered about being read aloud to and she spoke about my husband reading her The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She still has the full Narnia collection on her bookshelves.

These days, I have my nephew and nieces to read to when they stay with me and we are currently reading George’s Marvellous Medicine, which they are thoroughly enjoying. I think, especially now in the digital age, it is important to spend time reading with children. And what better way to end the day, or spend a wet afternoon, than by turning off the TV or tablet and settling down together, to become immersed in tales of imagery lands and great characters?

Colin Dardis

My reading aloud experience might be a bit different from the usually bedtime stories. I had a speech impediment when I was younger, and attended speech therapy classes throughout primary school in Omagh. Loads of books were read aloud to me by my speech therapist. Most of which I have now forgotten. However, I do remember Meg and Mog, Spot the Dog, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Helen Nicoll’s Meg and Mog sticks with me for a few reasons. First of all, the names sound like two characters from a Beckett play (think Bem and Bom in ‘What Where’). Also, the simplicity of the illustrations by Jan Pieńkowski, with bold colours and thick black outlines, were very appealing to me a schoolchild. I loved drawing, and often copied out pictures from books and comics. I read alongside my therapist, repeating each sentence after her, breaking down the lines into manageable, pronounceable parts. Very often, I would stumble on a particular word or syllabic sound, and have to focus on the shape of my mouth and the position of my tongue to extract the correct phonation. Reading aloud together was crucial to me learning to speak and communicate, and gain confidence to speak up as well. Never underestimate the power and importance of story time with your children.


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See also: 
Greater benefit from reading books than tablets, studies show
Reading Rooms explores promotion of wellbeing in new pilot scheme


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