Is reading to your child important? Ask most people and they will say it is. But why? What are the actual benefits? In an age of technology, is there really any value in reading a book? If you already read to your child you know how wonderful family reading time can be, but here are some things you might not know:
Reading Helps Children Develop Literacy and Language Skills
According to the Foundations of Literacy Study conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno, child literacy and language skills are some of the strongest predictors of school success and reduced involvement in at-risk behaviors. I think it’s safe to say that as parents we want our children to do well in school and stay out of trouble, so how do we help our children develop skills in literacy and language? Read! In Your Child: Development and Behavior Resources, an information guide put out by University of Michigan Health System, five early reading skills are identified as essential: the ability to hear, identify, and play with individual sounds in spoken words (phonemic awareness), being able to connect the letters of written language with the sounds of spoken language (phonics), vocabulary, being able to understand and get meaning from what has been read (reading comprehension), and being able to read text accurately and quickly (fluency, oral reading). Reading to your child(ren) will help develop each of these essential skills.
Reading Can Enhance Children’s Social Skills
Think of a kid in a movie who loves to read—socially awkward, right? Hollywood may need to rethink its portrayal of bookworms. A recent study by Raymond Mar, Keith Oatley, and Jordan Peterson found that reading fiction correlates positively with empathy, as well as social support. How? Have you ever heard the saying “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes?” That refers to empathy, defined by my copy of Webseter’s as “the ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings.” In a fictional narrative, the reader must do just that: see things from the perspective of the character(s) and share in their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Others studies have had similar results, but let’s forget about studies for a minute. When a parent or other family member reads to a child, that is a social activity. This can be further enhanced by discussing the characters or situations in the story. Want a really great way to mix reading and social time? Research “story time” activities at your local library or bookstore. Oh, the places they’ll go!
Reading Can Improve Abilities in Technology
Online books are a great way to read to your child while allowing them to pick up valuable computer skills they will need throughout their life. Improve their fine motor skills at the same time by allowing them to do the “clicking.” Pretty soon they’ll be getting around the digital world faster than you!
In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, raisesmartkid.com states that reading is shown to calm and relax children and to promote a longer attention span, and more and more benefits from reading are being identified all the time. Why read to our children? As parents, it is our job to give our children every opportunity and advantage in life we can. Reading to your child from a young age is a great start!