The headline is of course misleading because there are far more than five reasons to read to children. But for the sake of the blog, and creating digestible content for busy parents and caretakers, I’ve drilled it down to five.
Reading is vital for language, social, and emotional development.
The more children read and/or are read to, the greater their exposure to new knowledge, vocabulary, and grammar. They start to understand the meaning of words by observing them being used in different contexts, as well as learning how to verbally express themselves. When reading, be sure to use correct pronunciation to provide appropriate models for your children to imitate proper language.
2. Reading together is a valuable bonding experience for both child and parent/caregiver.
Parents, caretakers, and teachers of young children are familiar with both the joys and the frustrations of reading favorite books to an eager toddler multiple times in a row. But as you read together, your growing child is building their relationship with you. Even before they're born, babies learn to recognise their parents' voices. I cherish memories of reading to all four of my children while in utero and then out. Hearing your voice reading, even for just a few minutes a day, gives babies comfort while exposing them to language.
As children grow, the books get longer and can turn into an ongoing ritual, such as splitting a novel series or chapter book over the course of several weeks’ worth of bedtime. Have your child pick out the books, which builds trust and lets them share in the responsibility. Some children may have more difficulty than others staying engaged or understanding, so break down pages into paragraphs if needed and choose topical subjects, e.g. books about milestones, e.g. a sibling’s arrival, going to nursery, visiting the dentist.
3. Reading can enhance social skills.
Losing yourself in books, especially fiction, could increase your empathy. In a study conducted in the Netherlands, researchers showed that people who were “emotionally transported” by a work of fiction experienced a boost in empathy. By reading a book, you become part of the story, feel the characters’ emotions and become more aware of how different things affect other people. Eventually, this improves your ability to emphasize and express feelings with other people. Putting ourselves into another character’s situation helps us to understand sadness, joy, anger, fear, which expands emotions and language
4. Reading from a young age helps children become “world-ready.”
Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a new study found. Even just one book a day means your child will hear 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.
This “million-word gap” could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development, between children. “Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school,” said Jessica Logan, a member of Ohio State’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy.
5. Reading helps spark the imagination.
Reading about different characters, contexts and situations lets children explore new people and places beyond their own experiences. Reading opens the doors to whole new worlds which in turn expands your child’s mind. The library may be a few blocks walk or a short drive, but books take little minds much farther away.
Remember this when selecting books at the local library or bookshop. Choose different places and subjects, e.g. the zoo, animals, the forest, school, park, friends, both familiar and not, in order to open minds.