Written for and cross-posted from madisonreadingproject.com.
What if I told you there was a way to bond with your child, improve their success in school, and teach them life lessons?
And what if I told you it only takes a few minutes a day?
There is a way! It is to read aloud to your child daily.
As a speech-language pathologist, I use books in almost every therapy session, and I encourage parents of my students to read every day as well. If you’re not sold by my word alone, keep reading to learn 5 science-backed benefits of reading aloud to your child daily.
The Million Word Gap. Did you know that children who are read about 5 books daily will have been exposed to a MILLION more words by kindergarten, compared to children who are not read to? Just think of the advantage you’re giving your child by doing something so simple! The key to improving your child’s vocabulary is increasing their exposure to words in their correct context. So exposing your child to a million words gives them a huge advantage in the area of vocabulary.
Higher Academic Success. Books help language development, and language levels at kindergarten are the best predictor of academic success. Yes, it’s even a better predictor than math skills or social skills. So we see again that reading from a young age helps set your child up for academic success. What a gift!
Strengthen the Parent/ Child Bond. Reading with your child builds your connection with them. Sometimes as a parent it can be hard to communicate our love, especially when our kids are little and can’t understand all of our words. The act of setting aside time to sit and read with your child sends the message that you value them, and the physical closeness it requires is a bonus!
Teach Life Lessons. As a parent, it can be hard to know how to best communicate those important life lessons in a way that will stick. We all learn better when lessons are taught in the context of a narrative (or story), and children are no different. The next time you want to impart a bit of wisdom regarding emotional intelligence, social interaction, or virtually any topic, look for a book on your child’s level that can help you send the message in a format that will stay with them.
Improve Attention Span. Have you ever heard a child repeat a book back verbatim? They likely requested that one book over and over again and eventually memorized it. The act of sitting through books, taking in information slowly, and paying attention for an increasing period of time improves a child’s attention span and memorization skills. Unlike so many sources of information in our world today, reading passes slowly and requires one’s full attention to take it all in. As your child grows, they will learn to pay attention to longer stories, and this will have an impact on other areas of their life.
Learn to Love Reading. Parents reading aloud to their children promotes a love of reading in the child. You can use your imagination to determine how incredibly useful it is for a child to love reading, rather than hating it or simply tolerating it. No matter their trajectory in life, a love of reading and listening to stories will be so valuable to your child.
I hope by now you’ve realized just how important it is to read to your child early and often. If your child is one that does not love it at first, keep trying. Just like any other skill, reading and listening to books can be practiced. Play around with different times of the day and different types of books. Allow your child to choose the book, and do not force them to keep reading if they become disinterested. If your child is particularly wiggly, try reading while they engage in sensory play.
Most importantly, make reading time fun and give your child your full attention during that time. You will make memories that you and your child will cherish for a lifetime.
1. Jessica A. R. Logan, Laura M. Justice, Melike Yumuş, Leydi Johana Chaparro-Moreno. When Children Are Not Read to at Home. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000657
2. Measuring success: Within and cross-domain predictors of academic and social trajectories in elementary school, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 46, 2019, Pages 112-125, ISSN 0885-2006, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.04.001.
3. Duursma, Elisabeth & Augustyn, Marilyn & Zuckerman, B. (2008). Reading aloud to children: The evidence. Archives of disease in childhood. 93. 554-7. 10.1136/adc.2006.106336.
4. Hannam, F. D. (2015). Teaching through Narrative. In Forum on Public Policy Online (Vol. 2015, No. 2). Oxford Round Table. 406 West Florida Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801.
5. Tracie Abram, M. S. U. E. (2022, January 21). Reading aloud to kids has many benefits. MSU Extension. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/reading_aloud_to_kids_has_many_benefits
6. Duursma, Elisabeth & Augustyn, Marilyn & Zuckerman, B. (2008). Reading aloud to children: The evidence. Archives of disease in childhood. 93. 554-7. 10.1136/adc.2006.106336.