Do you remember the movie, “Three Men and a Baby?” There’s a scene in the movie where Tom Selleck’s character is reading a sports article to the baby. He says something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter what you read to a child. Reading is beneficial to the development of a child.” Most people know that reading to children is fundamental for academic excellence. However, there are a number of other benefits of reading to toddlers and preschool-age children:
- Children have a stronger relationship with the reader. Cuddling up while sharing a good book keeps you in touch with each other.
- It promotes basic speech skills. It reinforces speech and language sounds.
- Children who have books read to them have better ways of expressing themselves. They can relate to how the characters of a book talk to each other and can use those skills in their own relationships.
- It teaches children how to read a book. No one is born with an innate knowledge of reading left to right.
- Toddlers learn to increase their attention spans through with books. Even though many children squirm when they start out with story time, as you practice reading to them, they’ll find more discipline to sit still and enjoy the story.
- Reading also helps children adjust to new experiences. A story about starting school to a child who is anxious about going to school all day helps a child see that he or she isn’t the only one who is scared.
- It can also expand a child’s vocabulary.
In a 2014 study out of Harvard University, it was discovered that when dads read to children, especially girls, there is an even bigger benefit than when moms read to children. Additionally, men tend to be more abstract when talking about what they’re reading. For example, a woman approaches reading very factually. An example might include a mom asking a child, “How many blue fish do you see?” Men ask questions that challenge the child’s brain. For instance, a dad might say, “Look. Do you see the bus? Remember when we rode the bus to go to the zoo?”
Teenagers Benefit From Reading, Too
Preschool children aren’t the only ones who need to be engaged in reading. Once your child begins junior high and high school, reading a book out loud is very beneficial to development and cognitive thinking skills. You may have to be crafty at first, because your teenager may see the practice as childish. Start out with short articles from the newspaper or magazines, or maybe some poetry that you enjoy. Read during a meal time, then discuss it.
Take advantage of car rides. Listen to an audiobook that your children might enjoy. Listen to one chapter, then turn it off. You might be able to read something to your child when he or she is loading a dishwasher or doing another chore. Use the moments when you have a captive audience. Choose adventure stories that keep a child engaged from the very first chapter. Limit reading time to one chapter a night, kind of like Scheherazade. Ask your local librarian for books that fit your child’s interests and age level. Read biographies of people who did great things.
Most pediatricians recommend that a child’s screen time be limited. It’s very difficult to keep children from watching television or using their smartphones. You have to give them an alternative activity to make it feel like a privilege instead of a punishment. Reading can be this activity. Model good reading skills to your child, and help him or her find worlds that can only be imagined in words. You may not immediately see the benefits, but years later, your children will thank you.