According to Scholastic’s “Kids and Family Reading Report”, nearly 50% of parents say that they read to their children before they were three months old, with 37% of children in this age group being read to daily.
These numbers are an improvement from previous years, with many parents seeing the benefits of reading to their children from a young age. However, for many families, this daily practice is hard to maintain in the long term, no matter the benefits. Some parents need to work long hours to make ends meet. Some families might believe that print media is dying.
Whatever obstacles exist, it is important to note that reading to children has several benefits, not just for their mental growth, but for the development of a strong parent-child relationship.
Enhances Your Bond With Your Child
Reading to your child is a fantastic way to enhance your parent-child bond. Dedicating time to developing a bond with your child in their early years can have a profound impact on how they interact with the world throughout their life.
Children who develop secure attachments to their parents see the benefits of that attachment style in their adulthood. They often have high self-esteem, find fulfilling intimate relationships, feel comfortable reaching out to others for help, and can easily share their feelings.
By spending time with your child through intimate activities like reading aloud, and by responding to their needs consistently, you can do a lot to help them to develop a secure attachment style. You can also learn more about their interests, and share your interests with them in return.
Finally, you can use the books you read to help your child learn more about your family. Some families use the reading time to teach their children about their culture and traditions. Luckily, there is plenty of educational material out there that shares historical moments from cultures across the globe in a sensitive manner.
Introduces Your Child to More Word
Kids whose parents read to them (one short book every day), know 290,000 more words on the first day of kindergarten than children whose parents don’t read to them. If the parent takes extra time and reads five short books to their child every day, they will go into kindergarten knowing 1.4 million more words.
In her work at Ohio State University, Dr. Jessica Logan studies a phenomenon that she calls the million-word gap. This concept is based on the vast differences in reading ability and vocabulary seen in children who are entering kindergarten. These children are all the same age, but there are huge disparities that can be found in the number of words they have learned in their first few years of life.
In their first five years of life, children’s brains act like sponges. They listen and observe everything they are exposed to, bringing in massive amounts of information every single day. By reading to your child and introducing them to more words, you can have a drastic impact on their cognitive development.
Improves Language Skills
Reading to your child every day and exposing them to new words and ideas helps to improve their language skills. Even beyond the first five years of life, reading books with your older child and talking about what you read can help them to learn to articulate questions and opinions, use new vocabulary words, and develop their reading comprehension skills.
Children’s books are full of new ideas and fantastic illustrations and images. This constant influx of new ideas can help foster creative thinking in your child from an early age. By fostering their creativity, you are helping your child to become more empathetic, grow as a creative thinker and problem solver, and practice asking questions and forming their own ideas and opinions.
Growing up in an environment surrounded by books and reading might encourage your child to grow up to be a writer or an artist, or it might simply encourage them to be lifelong readers. Either way, the creative thinking skills that you instill in your child early on will have a lifelong impact on how they see and interact with the world around them.
Boosts Cognitive Development
By working with your child from a young age on their reading skills and vocabulary development, you can help to set them up for success later in life. According to researchers at the University of Melbourne, boosting cognitive development at one stage of life can help to raise their skill attainment at later stages of their life.
This means that you aren’t just working to help your child do well in kindergarten when you read to them at that age. You are boosting their cognitive development and building a foundation that will help them to succeed in middle school, high school, and beyond.
Prepares Them for Academic Success
Exposing your child to more words by reading to them will help them to develop a variety of skills that are needed for their academic success. These skills include, but are not limited to:
- Phonemic awareness – As children learn to speak, they develop phonemic awareness. This is the ability to hear, identify, and play with the individual sounds in spoken words. This awareness is at the heart of our ability to understand the rhyming, alliteration, and broken syllables often seen in poetry.
- Phonics – This is the understanding of how different sounds connect to the letters of the alphabet. Reading aloud to a child allows them to listen to you as they look at the words on the page, helping them to develop this vital connection between listening, speaking, and written language
- Vocabulary – Developing vocabulary is vital to communication. When you read to your child, you allow them to ask you about new words as they hear them.
- Reading comprehension – As your child gets older, you can invite them to take part in the reading. By giving them the chance to read to you and to answer questions you may have, you are also giving them the chance to practice their reading comprehension skills.
- Fluency – By listening to a fluent speaker read to them regularly, and by practicing themselves, your child will be able to develop their oral reading ability and will learn how to read aloud quickly and accurately.
When you read aloud to your child every day, it gives you the chance to see where their strengths and weaknesses are. Your child might be fantastic with reading comprehension but struggle with phonemic awareness. If you notice this trend, you can be proactive, find children’s books that use rhyme, and help your child grow and prepare them for academic success.
Tips for Making the Most out of Read-Aloud Time
The truth is that most parents don’t have an abundance of free time. If you are struggling with finding time to read to your child, and you want to make the most of the time you do have, here are some tips:
- Read at least one short book every day;
- Purchase budget-friendly books (some sellers even allow you to sell the books back to them when you are done!);
- Choose age-appropriate, shorter books. This would not include a longer, YA book series. Try to choose books and series that are at your child’s level or slightly above;
- Set a schedule and stick with it. By setting aside a specific time each day for reading, you can form a habit that can last beyond your child’s early childhood;
- Use the right pace so that your child can follow the story and learn new vocabulary;
- Expose your children to works written by both men and women authors to help them develop more equitable expectations between genders.
Keep these tips in mind as you read to your child, and be prepared for frustrations. You might have to repeat words more than once or answer an unending list of questions from your child. But if you stick with this habit, the results you will see in your child’s development will be worth the time and effort you put in.