As a parent, you are your child’s first and best teacher. The experiences you share, the words you speak, the activities you engage in are all part of your child’s early educational experiences. Children are learning even in the womb. Babies can hear their mother’s voice and language as early as 18 weeks into pregnancy. There is no such thing as too early when it comes to reading to your kids. While children’s books may not hold much significance to an adult, they are everything to a child. Check out our blog Best Children’s Books for a list of our favorite 13 stories for kids.
In this blog, we are going to discuss the benefits of reading to your kids. Whether you want to promote academic success, or simply bond with your little one, reading to your child is a good place to start.
It goes without saying that the more words children are exposed to, the more words children will learn. Particularly during the early years, children are learning many words a day. Much of vocabulary knowledge is expanded through basic interaction. Whether it’s at school, at home, or at daycare, your child is learning about words. Vocabulary expansion is a critical aspect of growth. You can nurture that growth by reading out loud to your child on a consistent basis.
Benefits of Vocabulary Expansion
Science suggests that reading is a comprehensive way to learn new words. Picture books in particular offer rich opportunities for vocabulary expansion. Knowing more words provides your child with a range of means through which to express their experiences. Vocabulary is key to effective communication, both written and spoken.
A large vocabulary doesn’t only give your child a leg up when it comes to word recognition and communication. It also is associated with better vocational, academic, behavioral, and health outcomes. Consistently reading out loud with your child may be able to reduce hyperactivity, reading difficulties, and benefit children who are learning more than one language. When it comes to academic achievement, children who are good readers are high performers across all subjects. Obviously, reading benefits your child in English class. But being a good reader also makes children better at math, science, history, art, and more.
Object and Emotion Identification
Reading to your kids is perhaps the most important way to prepare your child for the world around them. As early as a few months old, your child is picking up important associative. These cues inform them about their environment. If your toddler starts asking questions like “what’s that?” it’s a good sign that they are beginning to be curious about identifying objects in their world. That’s a great thing! Help your child identify things like cars, animals, people, colors by asking them questions. Reading the words is obviously an important part of books, but so is reading the pictures. “Can you point to where the lion is in this picture?” is a great question to get your child feeling confident about object identification.
Encouraging Object Identification
When it comes to object identification, take the connections farther. You can do this by relating objects, images, and persons in the book to things in the real world. When there’s a character who reminds you of a family member, talk about that with your child and explain why. For example, if you were reading Where the Wild Things Are with your young son you could say “Max reminds me of you because he is brave and adventurous”. If there is a pet in the story, ask your child to identify people they know who have pets. If there is a color you are working on learning, point to a color in the book and ask your child what color you’re pointing to. Then, ask them to identify another object in the real world of the same color.
Encouraging Emotional Identification
Practicing emotional identification is a great way to reinforce your child’s emotional skills. When there is an emotion in the story, use that as an opportunity. You can share about times when you have felt that same emotion. For example, in Are You My Mother? a baby bird gets lost and separated from its mother. You could talk about a time when you felt lost or scared, and how to handle those feelings. Engage your child in identifying emotions by using pictures and words as examples. Ask your child what emotion they think a character is feeling. Next, ask them to describe why they believe the character feels that way. They may identify facial expressions, postures, words, or behaviors. There are no wrong answers here, it’s just about practicing emotional intelligence through reading with your kids.
Object identification helps your child navigate the physical world around them. Emotional identification helps your child develop empathy and navigate the emotional world around them.
Family Bonding Through Reading
The best part of being a part of a family is spending time together. When it comes to having children, the most impactful thing you can do to positively influence their development is to just hang out with them. Enjoying a book with your child before bed on a consistent basis is something that they will remember and appreciate for the rest of their lives. Being snuggled up on a moms’ lap while enjoying a good book is an intimate educational experience that goes beyond understanding the words on the page. Bonding is a critical part of any healthy family system but bonding through reading to your kids has special benefits beyond family cohesion.
Brain Benefits of Bonding
The Washington University School of Medicine conducted a study to examine the effect of a mother’s active love on babies’ brains. The study found an interesting result involving the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain which is responsible for learning, memory, and stress response. It turns out that children of nurturing mothers had a hippocampus 10% larger than children whose mothers were not nurturing. The act of reading nurtures the bond between a mother and her baby, and thus nurtures that part of the babies’ brain which is responsible for learning. Bonding while reading is a double whammy for the promotion of brain health and memory retention.
Emotional Benefits of Bonding
Reading to your kids aloud on a nightly basis instills a sense of security and routine in your child’s life that will influence their patterns later on. It also gives your child an opportunity to look forward to spending time together. As your child gets older, things will continue to become more complex in their life. Reading time can be a great opportunity to talk through new challenges and emotions in a safe space. Circling back to emotional identification during reading is always a great thing and can be a great way to understand what’s going on in your child’s life.
Reading out loud something the whole family will enjoy. It is a great activity to end a long day of learning, laughing, and playing. It is an opportunity to grow together and bond with your child. You can expose your child to new things like different cultures, life lessons, and unique art. The little moments of reading together make a big difference in your child’s development. So grab some good books and get reading!