Why is it important to read to children is something we don’t usually give much thought to?
I know I didn’t.
Sure we hear it all the time.
Years ago as a first-time mom I was bombarded with advice from every direction.
Family members, neighbours, people on the city bus, elderly women in the mall, the doctor’s office, it seemed everywhere I went, people had plenty of advice to give.
Read to the baby while they are still in the womb, read out loud to your infant, read every day to your child.
So they would tell me what I needed to do to be a good mother but they fell short of telling me why I should do those things.
I was just as guilty as everyone else when my daughter was expecting her first child sixteen years ago.
And like everyone else I neglected to tell her why she should do those things.
I want to take a closer look at this topic.
I want to answer the question, “why is it important to read to children”?
I also would like to find out if there really is any merit to reading to an infant still in the womb or even just an infant, or should we wait until they have learned speech and begin reading to toddlers.
Let’s what information we can dig up, shall we?
What are the benefits of reading to children?
Ever notice how children’s minds seem to be like a sponge soaking up every little tidbit of information.
They love to emulate everything we do.
One example I can think of involves one of our sons and my husband.
One day Richard (3 at the time) was sitting at the table with one elbow resting on the table while his hand was supporting his head. When asked what he was doing he said, “Just thinking.” His father asked why he was sitting like that. Richard simply replied, ” Dad, you do it.”
There you have it, right from the mouth of a three-year-old.
Children emulate what we do so why not give them positive skills to copy.
If they see you reading on a regular basis they will emulate that and start developing an interest in books.
Creating a stronger bond
Rather than just let them copy you, why not involve them. Pick up a story that may interest them and cuddle up on the sofa and read that story to them.
I found that after their evening bath when it was time to wind down in preparation for bedtime was the perfect time for reading together.
With our kids and now our grandkids when they sleepover, a bedtime story is a treasured time for all and everyone looks forward to it.
Studies show that reading can help develop a stronger bond between parent and child.
Children who are read to on a regular basis feel more secure.
Reading to our kids helps them develop a positive attitude towards books and learning which will serve them well for their lifetime.
Improves listening skills
When a child is listening to a story it requires some level of comprehension. It is widely known that comprehension requires you to pay attention to the story. That means listening skills.
Make it more interesting by using silly voices for the characters.
With our own kids, my husband was the preferred parent to read the bedtime story.
Because he just had a way of bringing the characters to life with silly voices and actions.
This really got the children involved in the story and it was fun to watch them anticipate the next part of the story.
A great addition would be to purchase or borrow from the library some books with recorded audio that your child can follow along with on their own.
Of course, audiobooks should never replace a parent reading with the child but work well in addition.
Cognitive and language development
Studies have proven that even babies benefit from hearing parents and caregivers read to them.
According to this 2013 study babies that are both read to and talked to score higher on language skills and cognitive development, such as problem-solving.
This 2018 research has suggested that the benefits of reading and talking to our children throughout childhood and into their teen years may promote higher IQ and language scores up to age 14.
One thing I will really praise my daughter for is the way she adamantly instills a love of reading in her children.
Her girls are 15 and 12 and her son is 6. They are all huge Harry Potter fans so were quite excited when the movies came out.
My daughter insisted they read the book before they were allowed to watch the movie.
Now here is what I found most fascinating.
Every single one of her kids enjoyed the books more than the movie.
And every single one of her children excels in English and has a vocabulary far above what you expect for their years.
When my daughter’s oldest daughter was little(2 or 3) she loved books. Actually, she still does, in fact, she is quite the book-worm.
Anyway, it was quite common to hear her say something and we would all look at each other and ask how does she know that word? And she used it correctly.
It really was something because she was using words in context that you would never imagine hearing a 2 or 3-year-old say.
One time I remember her saying, “I’m so angry I could vomit.”
What 2-year-old uses those words.
My point is reading to your children from a young age really does expand their vocabulary.
It isn’t surprising when you think about it. I mean the books we read often contain words we would otherwise not use.
While reading a book you may encounter more specific names for different plants or animals or maybe more adjectives. This really adds up book after book.
A 2019 study stated that children who are regularly read to in 5 years prior to beginning kindergarten are potentially exposed to 1.4 million more words than kids who are not read to in that same time frame.
Reading to children helps them develop concentration and self-discipline skills.
You have probably noticed this yourself if you have ever consistently read to children.
I know have.
When you first start the child is wriggling and squirming and can’t seem to pay attention at all.
But what happens if we continue this reading time day after day?
Eventually, the child settles down and gets involved in the story. They begin to pay attention and even ask questions or point to pictures.
What we learn from the scene above is that when kids are listening, they are more likely to sit still, develop a longer attention span and even start to work on their memory-retention skills.
Books open doors to other worlds where normal limitations don’t exist.
Great fiction stories can really get kids thinking outside the box and exploring fantasy worlds.
Kids naturally have vivid imaginations but reading can further expand their creativity.
Creativity is an important element in developing new interests and ideas while simultaneously fostering emotional health.
Books give us the opportunity to discuss real-life situations in an age-appropriate way.
Kids love stories about kids their age doing the things they do.
An example of this is one of my grandsons was recently potty training.
He really loved Paw Patrol so it was no surprise that his favourite book at the time was “Potty Patrol”.
He wanted to be read that story over and over again.
My daughter-in-law told him he had to sit on the potty to read the book.
Potty training didn’t take long because the incentive was high and he really loved a story about someone else his age learning to do what he was doing.
There are all sorts of books that help children deal with a new situation like going to the dentist, becoming a big brother or sister, moving, starting school, literally any topic you can think of.
What a great way to teach kids how to handle real-world situations.
Social and emotional development
Reading about stressful situations can help open dialogue between parents and children to discuss their fears and answer their questions.
It can be stressful starting a new school and reading about another kid who is going through this can give them suggestions on how to deal with it.
I found that as my children learned to read, they enjoyed reading to their younger siblings or helping them when they began to read.
You can imagine my joy when I would “catch ” one of my kids reading to the others. I was so proud of them at that moment.
How and when to start reading to your child
Children benefit from being read to at any age. Different people can read to them.
Grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, they can all read to the child at various times.
Reading to your baby
When my kids were babies I would choose thick cardboard or plastic books that had brightly coloured pictured and few words.
Some books would even have different textures on some of the pictures for sensory development.
The babies could learn to turn the pages and point out pictures.
There are books for each age range, under s months, 7 – 12 months, 12 -18 months.
Initially, you will be reading or stating the words in the book.
As the child develops you can ask them to point to certain pictures.
Once they can speak a few words you can ask them what certain pictures are.
Reading to your toddler
Toddlers enjoy stories about other toddlers doing what they do.
This age group likes familiar characters so a series of books would be ideal.
My grandkids loved “TheFranklin” books. There were several books and the characters would have various adventures that the toddler would then want to emulate.
For instance, in one story bear came over for a sleepover. Bear and Franklin set up a tent in the living room to sleep in. My grandsons and I made a tent in the living room and had a lot of fun acting out the story.
Use your own imagination to re-enact the stories you read.
Be sure to teach the child that books are special and they are not to damage them in any way.
Reading to your child
Pre-schoolers and school-age kids have a wide range of reading abilities and for this reason, I would let the child take the lead on which books to choose.
You can start reading stories with a more complex plot.
You can ask open-ended questions like “what do you think will happen next?”
These types of questions will your child develop more critical thinking skills and learn to analyze situations.
Once my kids got to this age there was a whole new avenue of reading opening up.
I would ask the kids to read the road signs, or store signs to find the store we needed.
We would read the cereal boxes or anything we came across throughout the day that could practice reading. We would make a game of it.
Reading to your older child
I always encouraged self-reading and reading together as my kids got older.
We would select bigger chapter books than what they normally would choose for themselves and take turns reading.
I would read a page out loud then the child read out loud to me.
This worked very well and we enjoyed these times together immensely.
My daughter did this with the Harry Potter series with her girls.
Asking questions about what is going on in the book is a great way to test their comprehension.
Tips for reading to children
It doesn’t matter how many books you read in a day as long as you read every day.
Choose what time works best for you and then follow through every day.
When my children were very young we developed a bedtime routine for calming down at the end of the day.
Every evening was bath, snack, brush teeth then storytime followed by time to go to sleep.
We did this every single night without fail, even on vacation or when visiting relatives.
Kids love the same story over and over again.
Don’t get frustrated with this it helps them learn.
Take your time
Reading should never be a chore or rushed through.
You want to teach your child that reading is something valuable that you pay attention to and enjoy.
Take your time and enjoy this cuddling time with your child.
I always loved storytime. It was often the only time they would sit still and snuggle for a while.
Make it fun
Using silly voices for the characters, singing little songs, or making funny faces helps make the story come alive for your child.
Just reading the words without any fun expression is boring and will take all the fun away.
Enjoy reading with expression, fluency and this teaches your child to do the same when they begin to read.
Point out connections
Kids love applying stories to their own lives.
Go ahead point out similarities.
Things like “looked he sleeps in a big boy bed like you” will really help your child get the most out of this experience.
Take the time to discuss things that happened in the book and solutions to any problems.
Encourage siblings to read to each other
As I mentioned earlier my once my kids could read they enjoyed reading to their younger sibling.
They also enjoyed helping the younger sibling when they started reading.
My daughter’s girls both loved reading to Alex and now that he is beginning to read they love getting him to read to them and they help him with words he struggles with.
What a beautiful skill to develop and encourage in your children when you witness it.
Don’t stop with books
Of you don’t only need to discuss the printed words.
You could have a discussion about the pictures.
Or like I mentioned earlier you could practice reading everywhere you go. There are signs everywhere that can be read.
Make it a game and have fun reading with your child.
A Great Tool
Some time ago I came across this really great program called Children Learning Reading, which enables parents to easily teach their children to read.
I don’t like forcing kids to learn when they aren’t ready but this program is quite unique and doesn’t use force at all.
In fact with just 15 minutes a day, you can start children as young as 2-years-old to begin learning the basics of reading.
You can also use this tool to help children who are struggling with their reading to improve dramatically within a very short period of time.
Why Is It Important To Read To Children?
The short answer would be that it sets them up for future success and a lifetime of enjoyment.
In this article, we have discussed the many benefits of reading to children at any age.
We have also discussed how reading can evolve over time as the child grows and develops.
We have learned how reading can have a positive impact on our lives, throughout our lives.
It is not only a source of information and knowledge but also a great form of entertainment.
Have you read to your children?
At what age did you begin reading to them?
Share your experiences of reading with your children in the comment section below.