5 Benefits of Reading to Young Children
A child reaps many benefits from being read to long before he ever learns to read. Reading with your child provides you with an opportunity to connect with her on a daily basis. It also sets him up for a lifetime of academic, social and emotional success.
Your child wants to spend time with you from the day she’s born. Reading to your child, even when she’s a newborn, gives her a much-needed chance to cuddle up with you and hear your voice. Even before your baby understands what you’re saying or what is on the page, she’ll respond to hearing your voice and feeling your presence. As she reaches her toddler years, she’ll relish the shared experience of reading a story. She may also begin to memorize stories and help you tell her favorite parts.
Enhances language skills
Babies have already learned the sounds they need to speak their first language by the time they’re one year old. Reading to your child starting in her first days of life will enhance her development of language skills in many ways. Your child picks up on the various voice rhythms and intonations you use when you speak as different book characters and convey the tone of a scene. Reading to your child also teaches her speech skills such as enunciation and introduces her to new words that she may not hear in day-to-day interactions.
According to a 2006 study published in the journal “Child Development,” preschoolers who had been read to by their parents from an early age had better language comprehension skills than preschoolers who had not. These results were consistent among all children in the study, whether they came from English-speaking or Spanish-speaking homes.
Promotes social and emotional development
Your child hears you express different emotions when you read a story and learns to name each character’s emotions. She also learns how characters relate to one another and how they handle conflicts that arise in a story. Reading about characters’ feelings and conflicts can also help your child cope with her own. For example, she may not feel as alone and anxious about starting preschool if you read her a story about a character that’s also nervous about starting school.
Reading also promotes your child’s social development because it’s an interactive experience. When your child is pre-verbal, you can point to pictures, talk about what you see, and think aloud about how characters are feeling and acting. Once your child is able to talk, reading with her will open up opportunities for her to ask and answer questions about the stories. These conversations can often then turn into conversations about life.
Enhances intellectual development
The same 2006 study published in the journal “Child Development” showed that preschoolers who had been read to from an early age also had better cognitive development than preschoolers who had not been read to. When you read about different story scenarios, you teach your young child about concepts such as logic and cause and effect. You even introduce your child to more abstract concepts such as freedom, history and greed. Learning about new concepts teaches your child to be inquisitive, which will encourage her to investigate more about the world around her.
Prepares children for formal education
Your child will be more successful in school if she enters her first classroom with some understanding of basic concepts such as shapes, colors, letters, numbers and quantities. Most children’s books are ripe with fun opportunities to learn about these basic concepts, whether or not the books focus directly on them. Even as you read to your child about a bear, you can ask your child what color the bear’s hat is, encourage her to help you count the buttons on the bear’s overalls, and invite her to find all of the yellow objects in the picture.
By reading to your child, you also teach her essential pre-reading skills. She will know that printed words carry meaning, she’ll be able to identify the cover and back of the book, and she’ll learn to turn the pages in the correct direction. If you make it a point to follow the text with your finger, your child will also learn that words are supposed to be read from left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
Reading books with your child also enhances other important school skills such as the ability to sit still through a story and the ability to remember what a story was about. Most importantly, your child will learn to enjoy books, which means she is more likely to be enthusiastic about learning to read when she is developmentally ready to take that step.