World Book Day is celebrated every 23rd April in most places around the world, to promote the benefits of reading books, publishing and copyright.
It was created by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1995 as a worldwide celebration of reading and books. Over the years, World Book Day has been symbolic to advocating a culture of reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.
Nurturing a reading culture in children during their formative years, parents and caregivers must consciously stimulate children in that direction, provide them books and importantly, let them read for fun. Bridge Nigeria, a network of nursery and primary schools serving underserved communities in Lagos and Osun states, consider reading and literacy to be foundational to a child’s learning.
In commemoration of the 2021 World Book Day, Managing Director of Bridge Nigeria, Ms. Foyinsola Akinjayeju stated that the practice of reading to young children daily, starting in infancy, can help with language acquisition, communication skills, social skills, and literacy skills. “Literacy and the ability to read is a skill that is vital to a child’s future success. The habit of reading should begin at an early stage and should be imbibed throughout one’s lifetime.” She noted.
In the area of literacy, Bridge pupils in Lagos are demonstrating higher attainment than their peers in other comparable private schools (by 0.35 standard deviations) and public schools (by 1.38 standard deviations) and this is corroborated in an independent study report by DFID.
The Regional Director, Academics, Rhoda Odigboh stated that reading expands the mind by developing a child’s imagination and engaging critical thinking skills, while also noting that reading to children at an early age stimulates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language which helps build key language, literacy and social skills.
According to Odigboh, “Bridge pupils are provided with resources and textbooks to help them improve literacy among other skills such as problem-solving, creative and critical thinking as well as social awareness.” Bridge offers an electronic reading programme, in which pupils spend time working and reading books on a computer tablet per lesson in the classroom. “We also have the Bridge@Home virtual storybook library with hundreds of age and grade level story books which provide daily reading practice for pupils, even when they are at home.” She said.
The Bridge @Home learning resources was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that children continue to learn and grow even when at home. The resources include learning guides which help children complete different learning activities for each subject, self-study activity packs which are designed to help children complete different tasks, hundreds of stories through the virtual storybook library to help children practice literacy and free mobile interactive quizzes that children can take directly on WhatsApp.
Speaking on the daily reading practice, a parent, Mrs Adeola Ojo said the @Home reading practice initiative kept her son who is in Nursery class, busy and engaged at home. On the reading practice, she said, “I end up reading each story multiple times because he keeps asking me to read it again.”
Reading to young children is proven to improve cognitive skills and help along the process of cognitive development. Introducing reading into your young child’s life, and the conversations that it will prompt, helps them to make sense of their own lives, especially at a young age.