You’ve likely heard the importance of reading, but do you know why? Discover 7 benefits of reading to your child, even starting from day one! by Lane Rebelo
Some of the fondest memories of my daughter’s first year are of us bundled in the glider in her room reading stories at bedtime. Back then, she fit in the crook of my elbow so perfectly, both of us reading together as we rocked back-and-forth, baby in one arm and book in the other.
Now, even at 12-years-old and on the threshold of her teen years, she still wants me to read to her at bedtime each night. I’m savoring every moment while it lasts, cherishing this quiet and peaceful time together at the end of each day.
The benefits of reading to your child
You’ve probably heard the importance of reading to your child daily. After all, reading helps prime her for pre-literacy and sets the building blocks for a lifetime love of learning.
But beyond building a future reader, reading to her offers many benefits you may not realize. Reading with my daughter from infancy until now has been a wonderful way to bond and connect with her all these years.
In fact, there are many short- and long-term benefits to making story time a part of your regular routine, many that go beyond academics. Below you’ll find seven more of the biggest benefits of reading to your child.
1. Better sleep
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Sleep experts agree that a predictable and consistent bedtime routine improves your child’s ability to wind down and go to sleep. Having story time before the lights go out is a wonderful way to connect and get ready for sleep.
For our family, a consistent bedtime routine has been helpful, especially when our lives are busy and chaotic (like when we’re traveling). The consistency helps everyone feel calmer, more centered, and better able to relax, regardless of what else is going on in our lives.
Many classic bedtime stories have repetitive rhythm and rhymes that lull little ones into a relaxed state. Some of our favorites are The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton, Time for Bed by Mem Fox, and Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.
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2. Speech development
Exposure to language is essential for your child’s speech development. Children learn to speak by listening to spoken language and trying to mimic the sounds they are hearing.
Reading promotes speech development by engaging your child in a language-rich activity. Many children’s books with repetitive text allow her to hear key words over and over so she can practice new sounds themselves when she’s ready.
3. Building vocabulary
Acquiring vocabulary is an important milestone, especially in the toddler and preschool years. Recognizing and understanding the meaning of words has a huge impact on early reading skills.
When your child has heard a word before, he finds it easier to decode it on the written page. A strong vocabulary helps him decipher unfamiliar words by using context clues from the words he already recognizes.
Reading introduces new words into his life, especially for things you might not have to opportunity to discuss in everyday life. Think of farm animals you don’t always see on a regular basis, or different parts of the world you may never visit.
A regular reading habit, with a wide variety of books, will build his vocabulary. As Nina says in her book, Letters and Numbers:
“The way we speak includes conversational words, and not much else. But when we read to our kids, we introduce new words we don’t often say, like ‘exclaim’ or ‘triumphant.’ These are words he’ll hear from reading with you, not from his day-to-day conversations.”
4. Social and emotional skills
Reading stories about relationships exposes your child to social situations she may not know about yet. Stories with characters feeling a range of emotions helps her prepare for situations where she feels the same.
Reading about difficult situations happening to the characters is a safe way for her to identify and process her emotions. She can understand complex relationships and life changes if she reads them in books as well.
5. Reduce anxiety
For every new milestone your child is about to meet in his life, you can likely find an appropriate children’s book ready to help him prepare. These “first time” themed books can be invaluable in helping him get acquainted with a new situation.
Reading a book about going to school, losing a pet, or going on vacation can help him feel less anxious and better prepared for new experiences.
You can even make your own book about significant life events. To prepare my daughter for preschool, I made her a little photo book about what to expect.
I had taken a few pictures of her school during our summer visit, like the outdoor play area, the snack table, the class pet, the meeting rug, even the bathroom! I printed the photos and stuck them in a little photo book that we “read” regularly in the weeks leading up to her first day.
Because she was already so familiar with the school and knew what to expect, she felt confident and ready to start when the first day came around. The book became a cherished keepsake that we continued to read long after she was acclimated to preschool.
6. School readiness
Reading with your child is one of the best predictors of school readiness. You’re laying the groundwork for important skills he’ll need in school. He’ll learn to recognize sounds, identify letters, and understand rhyming and categories.
Plus, kids with larger vocabularies are better able to understand directions and take part in school activities. You can also ask questions while you read to help his comprehension and fully engage in the reading process. You might ask:
- “What does this mean?”
- “What do you think will happen?”
- “How do you think the story will end?”
- “What does this word mean?”
7. Lifelong success
Reading to your child not only gets her ready for school, but predicts how long she stays in school. There’s also a correlation between reading with a child and her future IQ score, as well as her future income potential as an adult.
As parents, we all want to do whatever we can to steer kids toward a bright future. Making a habit of reading with your child is one of the easiest and most enjoyable things you can do, even now.
As you can see, the long-term benefits of reading to your child are vast and many, and at any and all ages.
Babies benefit from a strong, early bond from snuggling with board books at bedtime. Reading colorful and interactive books supports toddlers’ emerging speech and language skills. And engaging picture books build preschoolers’ vocabulary as they get ready for kindergarten.
Reading throughout your child’s early years instills a lifelong love of books. You’re giving her an advantage she’ll continue to benefit from for years to come—even when she’s a 12-year-old who still enjoys reading with her mom.
Get more tips:
- 9 Strategies to Help Beginner Readers Build Strong Reading Habits
- Long Term Benefits of Reading to Children
- Useful Ways to Teach the Alphabet, Montessori-Style
- 6 Ingenious Strategies for Teaching Sight Words
- Easy Activities for Three Year Olds You Can Do Any Day
Lane Rebelo, LCSW, is the author of Baby Sign Language Made Easy and the founder of Tiny Signs®, an award-winning baby sign language program providing classes, workshops, and professional trainings in the Boston area and online. She is a licensed social worker and worked for many years with families in the Boston area. Lane began studying American Sign Language in 2006 after her first baby was born and was amazed by all she had to say. She lives with her husband and two daughters in MetroWest Boston.
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