Reasons Why It’s So Important to Read to Your Kids
Parents have more educational toys to choose from than ever before. But nothing beats the classics. Reading aloud to your child has been a parenting staple since the invention of books – and the developmental benefits are as powerful today as they’ve always been.
Here’s an in-depth look at all the great things which happen when you read to your kids:
Reading vs. Reading Aloud
Reading helps kids of all ages improve their literacy, vocabulary and overall critical thinking. Also helps kids develop creativity and imagination. Reading silently, alone, is a great habit for kids to develop and should be encouraged.
But reading out loud to kids is also important. Hearing a story provides a variety of different benefits for kids. Here’s a look at why you should regularly read to your kids:
While each child is different, generally kids can understand reading fundamentals by kindergarten. By first grade, most kids are able to read at a very basic level.
Kids are certainly capable of following a story before they can learn to read. Listening to a story read aloud helps develop literacy. For best results, sit in a way where your child can see the words on the page while you read them.
Helps Develop Imagination
Young readers often struggle with words and sentences. This makes it difficult to also pay attention to plot lines. But when they hear the story out loud, they’ll have an easier time following the larger narrative. They’ll also be able to more easily identify the themes.
When children hear a story, they can let their imaginations run wild. They’ll picture the characters acting out various scenes. The ability to picture events which aren’t actually occurring helps develop imagination.
Boosts Vocabulary and Language Skills
While you certainly talk to your child all the time, reading aloud provides different benefits than spoken words do. When we talk casually, we often don’t use language correctly. We repeat ourselves, use incorrect grammar and otherwise make many language mistakes.
However, hearing the written word read aloud introduces children to a variety of new language concepts. Kids will hear new words, proper grammar, complex sentence structure and more. Simply hearing stories read out loud helps kids become better writers and overall communicators.
Teaches Morals and Values
You want your child to grow up to kind-hearted and fair. Fictional stories are often a great way to model these values for children. Kids often respond well to morality tales showing the importance of overcoming adversity and acting in a virtuous way.
In many cases, kids will learn these lessons easier from a story than from a parental lecture. Young ones can relate to the characters and their struggles. Stories create a memorable example of good behavior which kids will want to emulate.
Helps Children Develop Empathy
Along similar lines, stories help kids put themselves into the shoes of another. Stories let the reader (and listener) explore a character’s thoughts and beliefs. Kids begin to understand that other people have complex motivations behind their behaviors.
Stories allow kids to experience events in far-away lands and even time periods. For instance, while To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in 1930’s Alabama, the lessons in the book are universal.
Allows for Family Bonding
Reading to your kids is a calm, comfortable time. You’ll need to sit closely with your little ones, in a quiet area. It’s a great opportunity for bonding.
Plus, reading aloud is often an easy way to start a conversation about difficult subjects such as death, puberty and more. Direct discussion can feel awkward. But you can still talk about difficult issues by using fictional characters and stories as a jumping off point.
When Should You Read to Your Child?
Generally, reading out loud can begin earlier and continue later than many parents realize. You can start reading to kids younger than the age of one. While children won’t necessarily understand what you’re saying, they’ll be comforted by your presence and the sound of your voice.
Additionally, reading out loud also benefits kids who are already strong readers. As mentioned above, hearing a story allows kids to focus on the message instead of the specific words. Generally, you’ll want to read books which are just a bit above the child’s current reading level.
The Harry Potter books are a great example of a series which grows with the child. The first three books are written for children as young as nine. However, the books generally introduce more complex words and sentence structure as well as more sophisticated subject matter and themes more appropriate for older teens.
How Often Should I Read to My Child?
While you’d probably like to read to your child every night, sometimes finding the time can be difficult. But that’s alright. Your child can still benefit tremendously from even relatively short periods of out loud reading.
Reading to your child just 10 minutes a day at least three times a week will dramatically help with their development. Even as little as 35 minutes of reading a week can been shown to be beneficial. Obviously, the more you read to your child, the more substantial the benefits will be, but even a small amount is worth doing.
What Types of Stories Should I Read?
Whatever you like! All reading has benefits. While obviously you want the story to be age-appropriate, generally let the child’s interests be your guide.
You don’t necessarily need to avoid somewhat dark and frightening subject matter, either. For example, many Roald Dahl stories contain fairly disturbing themes and characters – but children still love them anyway.
A Final Thought on Reading to Your Children
Reading introduces kids to a world of unlimited adventure. Taking some time to read out loud to your child helps improve literacy, vocabulary, imagination and a variety of other cognitive functions. Just a few short reading sessions each week can result in benefits. So pick up a good book, gather up your children and let reading time begin!