• By Amanda Blackburn.

Why reading with and to your children is so important!

We all have such busy lifestyles, rushing around all the time with such little time for the simple things in life. The simple things should not be forgotten as they are just as important as everything else that we do. Following a recent conversation at my local mums and tots group about story times, I was shocked at how little of the parents actually spent anytime throughout the day either listening to their children read or reading to them.

Yes, it's lovely to send them, swimming lessons, basketball, football, run them here there and everywhere else. But that 15 minutes before bed, that quality time together sometime throughout the day, just you and your child or children listening to each other, is so important!

If you really don't have 15 minutes to spare, could one of your older children listen or read to their siblings? This would be better than not reading at all! This should be something that isn't forced, only if it's something that they are happy doing. It's good to encourage this for both parties as it helps siblings learn to listen to each other, but reading time with a parent is very important. Parents need to be aware of their child's reading abilities so they can help them progress in life.

Reading books aloud to your children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. ... Even after children learn to read by themselves, it's still important for you to read aloud together there is always something new they can learn from you.

A child's reading skills are so important to their success in school and work. Reading is such a fun and imaginative activity for children, opening doors to all kinds of new worlds for them. We use language to communicate, reading helps to develop this and recognizing the words helps with writing skills.

Start reading to your child at an early age.

I have fond memories of my parents reading a bedtime story to me. It was never more than 15 minutes but I treasured that time together.

Reading can help younger children;

• Learn how to hold a book, and turn the pages. Your child will gain awareness of the conventions of reading (left to right, top to bottom), and even the very young will gain vocabulary.

• That printed words represent sounds and meanings. Running your index finger under the print as you read will help your child notice that printed words have meaning.

• How to sit and listen.

• How to communicate, how words and sentences should sound. Talking with your child before they can speak will help them learn important language skills. Most children need strong oral language skills if they are to develop as readers and writers. Books can help with your discussions, what can you see? What shape is it? What do you think happens next?

Help your children think of books as friends and allies in their pursuit of adventure and learning by having a good selection of books available in your home.

Set a good example of reading, read yourself in front of your children. If they see you reading it will encourage them to read too.

Encourage your child to read more by visiting the library together and allowing them to choose their own books. Local libraries offer a great selection of books that can match different interests and hobbies. If you encourage your child to find new books on their own to read, they will gain a sense of independence along with the knowledge they will learn from their chosen book.

Magazines or comics are another way of encouraging reading.

When your child is reading to you, don't forget to praise them, even if they aren't reading very well. It's important to be patient and encouraging with your child, if they feel comfortable and confident they will read much better. If your child needs more encouragement you could offer to reward your child if they read. For example, if your child reads 30 minutes every day for a week, offer to give them their favorite treat.

Once your child is attending pre-school, nursery or school, their teacher will be working to improve their reading skills. Most teachers are now sending home practical ideas for parents to use with their school-age children to help them develop skills and to encourage good reading habits. Ask your child's teacher for these practice activities. By reinforcing the skills your child's teacher emphasizes, you will be supplementing what he or she has learned about reading throughout the school day.

The extra time you spend with your child helping them with their reading will determine their future.

So if you haven't been reading with them yet, then start today! Your children will one day look back and thank you for this quality time spent together!

Here are some video reviews of some fantastic books that I love to read to my children. I have worked with children for over 25 years and they all love these books.