Reading To Young Children – What Are The Benefits, Short Term And Long Term

September 9, 2015
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It might seem silly at first to read books to a newborn baby, but science has proven there are many benefits to reading aloud to very young children — both in the short term and the long term.

The thing is, children are developing literacy skills and awareness of language long before they are able to read. Because developing language is the cornerstone for learning,  getting a jump-start early on can absolutely set kids up for later success in school.

A new brain scan study explains that reading to a child early and often activates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language. The study looked at 19 preschoolers and their interactions with their parents. Nearly 40% of the children came from low-income backgrounds. Parents filled out a questionnaire that assessed their habits for raising their children and included questions asking whether the parents had taught their children skills like counting, how often the parents talked with their kids and how early and often parents read to their children.

Researchers then attached brain scanners to the children as they listened to stories. Reading at home with children from an early age was strongly correlated with brain activation in areas connected with visual imagery and understanding the meaning of language.

“For parents, it adds credence to the idea of reading with kids,” says study author John S. Hutton, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “Getting a peek into the brain, there seem to be some differences there that are pretty exciting.”

For these reasons and more, parents are strongly encouraged to read to their children from birth, according to recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)

Still not convinced? Here is further motivation to whip out a few books and start reading to your children right now, courtesy of

  1. A child’s vocabulary use by age 3 is a predictor of reading comprehension and language skill at ages 9-10.
  2. Shared parent-child reading during a child’s preschool years leads to higher reading achievement in elementary school.
  3. Children who are read to at a young age tend to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of letter name, phonological and sound awareness and better success at word decoding.
  4. The vocabulary use of children in first grade can predict greater than 30 percent of 11th-grade reading comprehension.
  5. One international study that involved 15-year-old teens from 14 developed countries showed  students with parents who read books to them regularly during the first year of primary school scored, on average, 14 points higher on a comprehensive reading assessment.

Here are some tips, provided by RaiseSmartKids to remember on reading to your kid so he will grow up a reader:

  • Apply techniques for reading to children to make it interactive, thought-provoking, exciting, and educational.
  • Make your child an active participant in the reading.
  • Also, use age-appropriate strategies on reading to your child. Reading to your kids with different ages presents new opportunities and challenges.
  • Since your kid imitates your behavior, let him see you read books.  Let him know that reading is a part of life!
  • Let your child feel that reading a book with him is a pleasurable and enjoyable experience, and not a stressful activity that you are forcing him to do.
  • Form a habit of reading to him at the same time each day, or at least several times a week.  Choose a time when you and your child are both relaxed and not rushed.
  • Choose books that your kid will be most interested in, and appropriate for his age. A young child likes colorful drawings and pictures of people.
  • To help your child understand that letters and words are symbols that are used to communicate, run your finger under the print but don’t force your child to follow your finger.
  • Sometimes, your kid likes a particular book and wants to read it repeatedly.  Do not discourage this, since he finds reading this book pleasurable – and pleasure is what he should get from reading!  Also, he is getting the most out of this book and is giving you a hint about his interest!
  • Expose your kid though to a variety of books.
  • You can use reading as a way to allay your child’s fears or prepare him for changes in his life.  For example, you can choose books about using the potty, going to school, or moving to a new house when he is about to have these new experiences.
  • Teach your child to treasure books and treat them with respect – keeping them clean and in good condition.
  • Surround your kid with books.  Keep books where your kid can easily reach them so he will be able to browse them by himself.
  • Take books to read to your child on long trips and places where you have to wait like the doctor’s office.

Above all, reading to your child can help foster both a love for the written language and a passion for learning. And let’s face, the extra snuggle time with your little ones as you explore the imaginary world of books isn’t too shabby, either.

One Comment

  1. Amy Sahli

    February 6, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Thank you Michelle. A very touching and informative article. Cuddletime?? Priceless and irreplaceable. Reading is the perfect excuse. Thank you.

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