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      One of the most frequently asked questions I get is whether I read to James every night.

      I recently spent the night at my cousin’s and this topic came again.

      There were three mums there and we all had very different opinions and experiences. However we agreed, fundamentally, that reading is a crucial part of our child’s development.

      For me, personally, I love the bond it creates. I started reading to James when he was a few weeks old — primarily because I’m a complete nerd and had been reading lots of research about how it improves listening skills and helps to improve IQ.

      But, most importantly for me, it has been shown to help you and your child communicate, while increasing their attention span (miracles also do this!).

      TNM Monkey cover copy (2)In the early days, I used to point out the pictures and colours and bought the entire collection of the ‘That’s not my…’ Usborne children’s books. I loved the different textures on each page and James did too. Reading always helped me to keep him quiet in restaurants and still does.

      For me, reading with James has become a form of escapism from everyday life. I adore listening to his stories as he usuallyN embellishes whatever we are reading with secret characters and storylines that are quite spectacular.

      As your child grows, remember to differentiate between words and pictures. And, when you’re reading, run your finger along the sentence from left to right. If you’re having a chat about a character, I often ask James to point him or her out and describe what they’re wearing.

      I find it keeps him focused and he feels like he’s involved. He often wants the same story read for weeks on end and then he will ask me can he read it.

      This can become a bit tedious and boring, but hang in there — because sometimes that story can appeal to their emotional needs or interests at the time.

      Our lives are so hectic but it’s important to try and find even ten minutes a day and it doesn’t have to be at bedtime.

      James is going through a phase of reading his Smyths toys catalogue at night now before it’s lights out! I used to put so much pressure on myself trying to do things right and now I find that at night, with the evenings being so busy, I usually put him straight down and we read during the day or in the morning. A great piece of advice I was given when James was very young is that ten minutes a day is better than an hour at the weekend.

      Reading and books are powerful tools in teaching your children thinking skills early on. Your children can also learn to understand cause and effect and exercise logic through reading. It can teach them the consequences of their actions, and the basics of what is right and wrong.

      Reading can also be a very useful tool for parents who are dealing with emotional problems or indeed issues like bullying with their children. There are many books on the market now that deal with all these issues and Joanna Fortune from parent/child relationship clinic, Solamh, has written a list here you might find useful.

      There are also books to help with grieving and loss. And when a child reaches a new stage in their life or they find themselves in a new and unfamiliar situation, reading them a story relevant to the new experience can relieve their anxiety and help them cope.

      For example, if your child is stressed about his first day in school, having a new sibling or moving to a new location, you can read a book that shows and explains how other children/characters go through similar experiences and find solutions.

      This can be great for parents who might find it hard to communicate themselves.

      Books teach us all about relationships, situations, personalities, and what is good and what is bad in the world we live in. For your children, it’s no different. So give them the gift that keeps on giving and create memories you’ll cherish forever.

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