Why Reading To Children is So Important
As an educator (I've been in education for over 10 years now), I'd like to believe that I understand the needs of children fairly well. I understand how to nurture their creativity and ensure they are growing to be the best, most well-rounded people they can be. So, with my own children - starting from them being babies - we spoke to them with typical adult language - no whiney voices, no baby-talk - but real, normal conversations. We also read to them every night. Sometimes it was one book, sometimes it was 4, but we always read something. This is a part of our bedtime routine with our kiddos and has been since they were babies.
The reason for this is because reading has so many amazing benefits to a child's brain. My 7 year old can read small chapter books on her own already. Not only can she read them, but she comprehends them and can tell you exactly what the book or chapter is about. My 20 month old is already speaking in small sentences and asking questions. I attribute a lot of these abilities to reading to my kids.
According to many doctors, brain scans show that reading has cognitive benefits. Hearing and reading stories strengthens the parts of the brain that are linked with visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning. Children who are read to or enjoy reading can show a significantly higher phonemic awareness than children who do not read. "Becoming a Nation of Readers" concluded that "the single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children." (see resource link below)
Reading also allows children's social, emotional, and character development to strengthen. This is because reading can decrease aggression and attention difficulties (ADHD). My daughter has ADHD, but when she is reading or being read to, she is able to sit still, listen, and comprehend the story.
If you currently do not read to your young kids, or if it is not a part of your bedtime routine, and you'd like to begin doing it, here are three tips from Deborah Farmer Kris (see link below) for helping with reading time:
1. "Start early, read often. Reading to babies helps build bonds, vocabulary, and habits. If reading a story is part of the bedtime routine from infancy or toddler-hood, your child will take the lead in making sure this happens every night."
2. "Read the pictures. Illustrations are visual clues that can help kids build their vocabulary and their emotional toolkit. Before reading a book, take a “picture walk” through the pages. Look at characters and the setting and make predictions about what might happen. While reading, pause to look at characters’ body language and ask,How do you think she’s feeling right now?"
3. "Press the pause button. Some nights, it’s tempting to rush through books on the way to “lights out.” But sometimes I press the pause button before turning the page. Take time to look at a picture, ask a question, or share reactions. Help kids make connections between what they read and the world around them."
Of course, reading to your child doesn't have to be just at bedtime. Set aside a time on the weekend when the whole family is home to all sit together and read. If your child says they are bored, suggest reading a book - if they say no, suggest having you read a book to them. Even as an adult, I enjoy when my mom reads me a book aloud (she's a 1st grade teacher and "tries out" books on my siblings and me). Not only is reading beneficial for your child, but it is also beneficial to you because you can get some free snuggles and cuddles with your kiddo. :-)
You can find my list of great books for toddlers and small children here.
Information on the benefits of reading provided in this blog can be found at the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2018/05/why-reading-aloud-to-kids-helps-them-thrive/