What’s the most important trait you’d like to develop in your child? If you’re like most parents, intelligence is probably at the top of your list. We all want bright, smart children, which is why we spend so much time choosing the right schools and making sure teachers are exceeding expectations. But remember: as a parent, you have the power to boost your children’s learning potential simply by making books an integral part of their lives.
We all know reading to our kids is a good thing—but are you familiar with the specific advantages your toddler or preschool-age child can receive by being exposed to the merits of reading? Below are some benefits that highlight the importance of reading to your child between the ages of two and five.
- A stronger relationship with you. As your child grows older, he’ll be on the move—playing, running, and constantly exploring his environment. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and recaptures that sweet, cuddly time you enjoyed when he was a baby. Instead of being seen as a chore or a task, reading will become a nurturing activity that will bring the two of you closer together.
- Academic excellence. One of the primary benefits of reading to toddlers and preschoolers is a higher aptitude for learning in general. Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. After all, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he be expected to grasp the math, science, and social concepts he’ll be presented with when he begins elementary school?
- Basic speech skills. Throughout toddlerhood and preschool, your child is learning critical language and enunciation skills. By listening to you read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, your child is reinforcing the basic sounds that form language. “Pretend reading”—when a toddler pages through a book with squeals and jabbers of delight—is a very important pre-literacy activity. As a preschooler, your child will likely begin sounding out words on his own.
- The basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
- Better communication skills. When you spend time reading to toddlers, they’ll be much more likely to express themselves and relate to others in a healthy way. By witnessing the interactions between the characters in the books you read, as well as the contact with you during story time, your child is gaining valuable communication skills.
- Mastery of language. Early reading for toddlers has been linked to a better grasp of the fundamentals of language as they approach school age.
- More logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.
- Acclamation to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.
- Enhanced concentration and discipline. Toddlers may initially squirm and become distracted during story time, but eventually they’ll learn to stay put for the duration of the book. Along with reading comprehension comes a stronger self-discipline, longer attention span, and better memory retention, all of which will serve your child well when she enters school.
- The knowledge that reading is fun! Early reading for toddlers helps them view books as an indulgence, not a chore. Kids who are exposed to reading are much more likely to choose books over video games, television, and other forms of entertainment as they grow older.
Books have the power to benefit toddlers and preschoolers in a myriad of ways. As a parent, reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to prepare him with a foundation for academic excellence.
10 Tips to Help Raise a Reader
Reading books to children is one of the most important things you can do to promote literacy development—but why stop there? In addition to just regurgitating the words on the page, try these creative strategies to foster your kids’ love of reading.
- Add a little playacting. Instead of just reciting the same old story, improvise a little. Don’t be afraid to deviate from what’s on the page. Incorporate different accents for the characters, add drama with theatrical hand gestures, build anticipation by including pauses, and let the emotions of the story register on your face.
- Encourage interaction. When reading to your preschooler, pause every now and then to ask questions about the story, wonder aloud about alternate endings, or propose new character names.
- Talk about books. The benefits of reading to children don’t have to stop after you’ve closed the book. After sharing a story together, bring it up in conversation throughout the day. Compare a real-life event to something that happened in the book, or ask how they think a certain character would handle a specific situation. Incorporate key vocabulary that was presented in the book, so your child gets an idea of how the words fit into different contexts.
- Introduce books in new scenarios. Why wait until bedtime to pull out a book? For babies and toddlers, bath times and mealtimes provide great opportunities for enjoying a story.
- Consider joining a book club for children. With the overwhelming number of kids’ books on the market, it can seem like a daunting task to select the ones that are right for your child. When you join a book club for children, you’ll receive hand-picked titles tailored to your kids’ ages and interests. Getting shipments of high-quality children’s books delivered right to your doorstep is a great way to encourage excitement about reading.
- Explore reading resources for children. The Internet offers an abundance of children’s Web sites with creative ideas for promoting early literacy, fun literacy games, and reading tools for children.
- Encourage reading outside of books. Throughout a typical day, there are hundreds of opportunities to recognize words and phrases. Challenge your child to find new mediums for reading, whether it’s a billboard, newspaper, cereal box, or storefront sign. This will help your child grasp the significance of reading in the real world and give him a chance to apply what he’s learned.
- Introduce your own childhood favorites. Remember those timeless classics you couldn’t get enough of as a kid? Bring them back into the limelight by reading them to your own child. Your excitement for those old beloved stories is sure to rub off on your little one.
- Volunteer your reading services. If your child is of school age (or even in daycare), reading aloud to his class is an excellent way to foster his love of books and to demonstrate your support and commitment to his reading success. Most daycare centers, preschools, and elementary schools welcome parent volunteers.
- Take field trips to the library. The library is an invaluable reading resource. Acquaint your budding reader with the book loaning process, emphasizing a respect for the facility and the books. Many libraries feature designated story hours, where a librarian reads selections aloud to a targeted age group. Check with your local branch for more activities to promote reading.
The importance of reading to children can’t be disputed. By utilizing literacy resources for children, incorporating books as part of your child’s everyday routine, and looking for creative ways to promote reading, you’ll be giving your youngster a head start toward academic success and a rich, vivid imagination.