Think, for a second, about how often you obsess about what’s going inside your child’s body:
- Is he getting enough calcium?
- Is he eating too much sugar?
- When was the last time she drank a glass of water?
- Did she take her vitamin today?
- That Cheerio he ate off the bathroom floor isn’t going to hurt him, right?
(Please tell me I’m not the only one with kids eating stale Cheerios from every crevice of my house.)
You know how important it is to think about the things your child puts into his body, but have you thought lately about his word intake?
Reading to Your Child:
Another Essential Daily Nutrient
You’re probably reading to your child every day without even realizing it. Whether it’s a stack of all the Elephant & Piggie books or a few sweet stories before bedtime, the simple act of reading has likely made its way into your daily routines.
And, mama, did you know that this simple act of pulling your child onto your lap and reading her a story has tremendously powerful implications? Did you know that it is more than just a fun pastime or a way to get your kids to wind down before bed?
Just as there are health benefits to taking a daily vitamin or eating enough vegetables, there are proven positive results that come from reading with your children every single day. Because, of course, you’ll see the same results no matter how many kids are on your couch.
Let’s talk about 4 of these tremendously powerful benefits.
Reason to Read With Your Child #1:
Improved Brain Development
Here’s a quick fact for you: Your child’s brain develops faster between the ages of zero and three than at any other time in his life.
Do you need to read that again to fully feel the weight of it?
This is a crucial time to think about the things we’re putting into our kids’ brains.
The vocabulary, critical thinking, and conversations we expose our kids to when we’re reading with them is only serving to connect neurons and help those little brains grow.
And if that’s not enough, by creating a positive and nurturing reading environment, you’re also enriching brain networks that are related to their social and academic abilities–both of which will set kids up for future success.
Reason to Read With Your Child #2:
Increased Language Skills
The acquisition of language skills has a giant snowball effect.
- The more you read to your child, the more words she will know.
- The more words she knows, the better prepared she will be to learn to read.
- The better prepared she is to read, the better she will read.
- The better she reads, the more likely she will be to graduate from high school.
(I know, I know. Who wants to think about high school graduation when you’re still reeling over that first day of preschool?)
Language skills are as simple as they are powerful. Research shows that the more words your child hears you direct toward her, the more words she will learn.
And the beauty of books, in this regard, is that they give you an opportunity to introduce words that you might not otherwise say in your normal vocabulary. (We love this Peter Rabbit adaptation, for instance, because it taught our daughters that some people can be be feckless and shifty.)
Kids can’t know what they don’t hear.
It’s up to you to start giving them new words.
If you want some further tips, check out this super helpful article about how to further expand your child’s vocabulary!
Reason to Read With Your Child #3:
Greater Early Literacy Skills
Literacy skills go hand in hand with language skills, but they go beyond just vocabulary.
To put it simply, literacy is our ability to read, write, and learn.
Most of those skills are learned in kindergarten and early elementary school, but you are laying the foundation for them right now.
- The way you point out the words (or lack of words) on the page.
- The questions you ask while you are reading.
- The excitement you show when he wants to read another book.
You are helping prepare him to read, write, and learn even if you don’t realize it.
And that’s important.
Reason to Read With Your Child #4:
Stronger Parent-Child Relationships
This is my favorite reason.
What a gift you give to your child when you read to her.
I know some of my most vivid and fondest childhood memories are on a couch with my dad and a stack of books.
Your voice has power. (A great reminder from the American Academy of Pediatrics.) Even though that baby can’t fully understand the words you’re reading, she wants to listen because it’s coming from your voice. She likes that sound more than most others.
Additionally, by making reading time a daily priority, you will communicate that it is an important skill. And, if you read with excitement, they will associate books with those warm, fuzzy feelings of joy and happiness.
Make Reading to Your Child
Part of Your Daily Diet
Just like that daily multivitamin or the scoop of vegetables with dinner, don’t let a day go by without at least one helping of books.
And if you’re finding that task has become a little mundane, here are some ways you can spice that helping up:
- Get some new books for your shelves. (If you need some suggestions, Katie’s got you covered!)
- Take a trip to your local library. Watch your kids wiggle, sing, and enjoy being read to while you attend one of their librarian-led storytimes.
- Rotate your books periodically to give your kids fresh options. (I only keep one shelf of kids’ books and then switch them out every few weeks when I notice my kids starting to get bored.)
- Invest in some fun reading “accessories.” Maybe a cool reading tent for the basement or a hammock for her bedroom.
You can’t afford to take daily reading time out of the schedule or resign yourself to believe she’s “just not a reader.” You can help your kids love reading.
So go ahead and grab your favorite book from the shelf and snag that wobbly-kneed toddler before she gets too far.
A simple act, yes.
But now you know how tremendously powerful it is.
Have You Read These Yet?
- How to Inspire Your Preschooler with a Love of Reading
- Sleeping Beauty’s Top 10 Best Bedtime Books for Babies
- 4 Simple Questions That Will Make Your Little Superhero a Better Reader
- 9 Overlooked Toddler Books Your Little Bookworm is Sure to Enjoy
- 35 Princess-Free Storybooks for Your Adventurous Little Girl
- How to Make the Preschool Age Your Best One Yet
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Business, Medical, and Non-Profit Partners Launch New National Effort at CGI America to Help Close the Word Gap. AAP.org
This is Your Child’s Brain on Reading. CNN.com
I is for Infant: Reading Aloud to Young Children Benefits Brain Development. PBS.org
Using Their Words: Helping Preschoolers Get a Good Start in Reading and Learning. HealthyChildren.org
Reading Books to Babies. KidsHealth.org
Molly is the mom of three kids under the age of four and the wife of a busy (and extremely handsome) resident doctor. Mostly though, she’s a particularly average person just trying to live each day well. She spends most of her days perfecting the messy bun, drinking all the coffee, and observing every piece of beauty she can find in the mundane. Read more about Molly in her full bio here.