Babies and children are sponges that absorb everything that happens in their environments! There are so many benefits to reading to your child, at any age! Their minds are hard at work, taking in the language their parents say and the lessons the characters learn in the stories.
What are the benefits of reading to your child?
Reading to your child isn’t about just reading a book; you are bonding with your child and they are learning to read along with many other lifelong skills.
Reading gives you and your child an opportunity to connect and spend time slowing down. Reading supports the parent-child relationship that helps children feel secure and safe. Positive parent-child relationships lead to positive attitudes toward books and literacy at a young age.
As a child listens to the story you’re telling, they are working on their comprehension skills. Comprehension is dependent on paying attention, which in turn leads to listening skills.
One way to work on your child’s listening and comprehension skills in addition to reading one-on-one with your child is to use books on tape! These provide entertainment values, with silly voices, music and other embellishments to the story!
Cognitive and language development
Babies and young children who are read to and talked to have a higher score in language skills and cognitive development. These verbal interactions between parents and children will follow them through their lives and promotes high language skills all the way up to age 14.
Reading books to kids helps expand the words they use! The books contain a vast vocabulary of words you might not use in everyday conversations. Books may use more specific names for different things, and all this adds up! Over the five years leading up to kindergarten, children who are read to are exposed to 1.4 million more words than children who aren’t read to during those years.
Social and Emotional Development
Reading to young children about emotional situations can help teach them how to cope with difficult or stressful feelings. This can help start a conversation and show children that their feelings and emotions are normal!
Babies, toddlers, preschoolers and even older children benefit from being read to!
Reading to Your Baby
Babies under six months benefit from books that have simple and bright images with contrast. As you read to your baby, talk to them, but words on the page aren’t necessary. Babies seven to 12 months can understand and see pictures and words better. Choose books with simple phrases that relate to the pictures on the page.
Babies 12 to 18 months may be more interested in books with pictures! Look for books that have children doing everyday activities, animals, TV characters or familiar scenes in them! Your baby will be interested in more detailed pictures and a simple story! At this age, your baby will begin to babble and talk. Try to converse with them about what they see on the page.
Reading to Your Toddler
Children between the ages of 19 and 30 months enjoy books that feature familiar characters and stories. Look for books that have short stories, focusing on cause-and-effect relationships. Another key element to look for in books at this age is repetition. Make a fun game out of reading books with repetition to see if your child can fill in the blanks! This is a good age to make connections between the characters and your child, “She’s sleeping in a big girl bed, just like you do!”
Reading to Your Preschooler
Preschoolers now have a wide range of reading skills! Some preschoolers may prefer picture books, while some enjoy practicing reading words with you. At this age, it’s good to start checking your child’s comprehension. Open-ended questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” will help your child dive deeper into learning to read so they can read to learn!
At this age, it is also good to start reading for 30 minutes a day. Practicing literacy can look like reading traffic signs and cereal boxes, singing songs, listening to a book together or having your child read a book to you!
Tips for Reading to Your Child
- Be consistent
- Whether you read one book or 12 a day, make it a part of your routine! Don’t worry about reading a new book every day, either. Children love to read/hear the same stories over and over again, which goes back to children learning by repetition.
- Take your time
- Be sure to leave enough time in the day to read instead of cramming in it at the end of the day or even making it a chore. You and your child don’t have to read for exactly 30 minutes, but try to squeeze in some time everyday!
- Make it fun
- Use different voices for every character, dramatic pauses and lively songs to make the story come to life! Dramatized reading can help your child understand the story and can provide a good example of expressive and fluent reading!
- Make connections
- Children love to make connections of their own lives to the stories they read. It makes the book meaningful and can help your child cope with different situations they experience in everyday life.
- Books and more
- Any exchange of words is beneficial to children. If books just aren’t hitting the right spot, take turns telling stories or look at picture books and talk about what you see! Anything that gets a conversation started with your child is beneficial.
Early literacy and language skills are affected by the quality and quantity of the words you speak to your child. Books provide an opportunity to get words flowing between you and your child. Consider checking out books from the library or find a free storytime!