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If words, speech and language are left brain, then shouldn’t reading be a left brain activity? Well, that’s what I would have thought, but apparently reading is encouraged as one of the right brain activities for home practice that parents should do with their children. I have heard that parents who send their children to Shichida are required to read at least 3 books a day to their child (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Many of the parents in Makoto Shichida’s book also write about reading to their children. One mother wrote that her son learned to read on his own – all she did was read a lot of books to him.
Well, we all know that reading to our children is good. It has also been recommended that we read a wide variety of books to our children – not just simple story books intended for children but non-fiction books and the classics which exposes them to the depth of language. If you follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, you would also be aware that she was against reading “twaddle” to children (books that were dumbed-down supposedly to make it easier for the children to understand).
Mason believed that twaddle insulted the intelligence of children. Indeed, if a baby can go from zero words to full communication in two years, who are we to dictate which words are “too complicated” for him to understand? A baby can decipher the meaning of any word regardless of whether it has one syllable or four. If a baby can learn how to speak faster than an adult can learn a new language, there is really no reason not to expose him to the richness of language.
Okay, I’m digressing – so…
How does reading help develop the right brain?
I haven’t read anything about this, but this is what I think… When you read books, you’re activating your child’s imagination. Imagination and fantasy is part of the right brain, therefore, when you read a book to your child, you inevitably engage the right brain. If reading pictures books are great for developing your child’s imagination and right brain, then surely reading books without pictures would be even better because your child has to imagine the scenes from the book in his head. This would be exactly like imaging which is one of the fundamental right brain activities. Picture-less books like novels and audio books are great for this.
Audio books are also great for playing in the car to keep your child occupied while you drive. It kills three birds with one stone: you fulfill two right brain activities – reading and imaging – and you keep your child entertained. The BBC recordings of Thomas Stories by Rev W Awdry provided Gavin with hours of entertainment in the car and saved me my sanity. If you have a Thomas fan as well, then you really have to get this series. At the time of writing this post, there are six volumes of Thomas Stories available on Audible:
- Audio – The Railway Stories
- Audio – The Railway Stories, Vol 2
- Audio – The Railway Stories Vol 3
- Audio – The Little Old Engine
- Audio – Percy the Small Engine
- Audio – The Great Discovery
If you don’t have a Thomas fan, don’t worry, there are plenty of other audio stories you can download on Audible at very reasonable prices.
In conclusion: read as many books as possible to your child. Read as widely as possible.