I have always called myself a reader. I enjoy it tremendously, and I would usually find myself reading multiple books, magazines and newspapers at the same time. I would even read while walking from the parking lot to my office. When I had my first child, I read any book I could find about having a baby, and what to do when that baby arrived. So, being a reader, I was so pleased to learn that reading to your child is incredibly beneficial, no matter how young the child is.
Little did I know that after having one child – and eventually two, all while remaining full-time at my job – would cut so deeply into my reading time. Twilight books aside (am I right, ladies?), I found myself having less and less time to read for pleasure, or to read at all.
But one thing I never skimped on – even before I started working in the nonprofit world of early childhood literacy – was reading to my children. I even read to them in the womb. While the jury may still be out on the subject of reading to an unborn child, I wasn’t taking any chances. I knew reading was important to me, and I wanted it to be just as important to my children.
Reading to young children is incredibly important. Aside from making you feel good, it has tremendous benefits for your child at any age: infant, toddler, young child, and on and on. Here are just a few reasons as to why you should read to your child for 20 minutes each and every day:
1. School Preparation: Reading aloud is the easiest and most effective way to prepare a child for school. And it’s never too early to start preparing them. Kids who are read to when they are young are more likely to do well in school overall. When you read to children, you are stimulating language and literacy skills, as well as building motivation, curiosity and memory. Ever try to skip a page in a small child’s favorite book? They catch you every time.
2. Vocabulary Development: Almost 80 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5. Kids are sponges when they are little. Say a word in front of them and they repeat it. Read to them, and they hear words that they don’t normally encounter in daily conversation. Books build their vocabulary and give them a mastery of language.
3. Education Advancement: The more children’s books in the home, the farther the child goes in school. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what your parents do; research shows that the more age-appropriate books in children’s homes, the more schooling they will finish. Period. So get as many books as you can for your children, and watch them learn and grow.
4. Passion for Books: Reading to children builds family relationships, and children learn to love books and reading. Ever want a child to settle down? Break out a book and start reading aloud. Then watch. That child will stop, come over, probably sit in your lap and cuddle while you read to her. Then she will want another book, and another. Look at her! Now she’s learning self-discipline while enjoying a special time with you. All from a book.
5. Stress Management: Children learn how to handle stress and new experiences from books. Stories are a great way to help children transition from one milestone to another (starting school, moving), or to handle a stressful situation (losing a pet, gaining a new sibling). There are relevant children’s books for almost every situation, and they can really help explain things to children on their level.
This is by no means a complete list of why reading to young children is crucial to their development, but it’s a start. I encourage you to find out more. Maybe you should do some reading on the subject? I know I did.
Sheryl Rogers is the director of Books from Birth of Middle Tennessee, which administers Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for Davidson, Sumner and Williamson Counties (Tenn.). She also oversees Jo’s Reach Out & Read book club for Children’s Hospital, and a statewide Family Literacy Program that serves thousands of families across Tennessee.