Once upon a time, there was a queen who tried to help children live happily ever after – by encouraging them to read. And this isn’t the stuff of fairytales. Queen Mathilde of the Belgians spent a day telling stories to babies and toddlers as she gave her backing to a literacy scheme focused on helping the very youngest to read.
Mathilde visited a nursery in Boutersem in the province of Flemish Brabant to show her support for Belgium’s annual reading week. And she underlined how important sharing words and tales is, even from the very earliest age, by reading books to babies who nestled on her lap as she guided them through the tales.
During her morning at the Vlindertje kindergarten, Mathilde shared a series of stories with youngsters. This campaign is particularly focused on the benefits of reading aloud to children from birth and up until the age of two and a half, an age group which can be overlooked when it comes to storytelling directly from books.
The Belgian queen also spoke to teachers and experts about the importance of reading aloud to children while they are still very young. During a roundtable discussion, Mathilde heard about the impact that being introduced to books at a young age can have on vocabulary and language skills in all areas of a child’s later education. This year’s reading week will also encourage parents and carers to register online for a book pack to help them encourage youngsters to read.
Language and education are causes close to Queen Mathilde’s heart. Before her marriage to King Philippe, in 1999, she worked as a speech therapist, and she also holds a degree in psychology. Since becoming a member of Belgium’s royal family, much of her public work had focused on supporting young people.