If reading with your children isn’t a regular habit, try to make it one. Here are compelling reasons why we need to read with kids every day.
Reading with our kids is one of those pieces of advice everyone—experts, teachers, pediatricians—recommends, but can still fall off our radar. And we have plenty of excuses. We:
- Are busy.
- Do read to our kids, but not regularly.
- Don’t have enough books in the house.
- Think the kids are too old to be reading with us.
- Don’t read ourselves.
- Meet resistance from our kids.
Why we need to read with kids every day
Why is it important for kids to read? This one simple act can have a huge impact on our children’s learning and success.
Let’s dive into a few benefits of reading with your kids:
Better performance at school
No doubt, avid readers perform better at school than those who don’t. One of the biggest reasons is how many words a child knows. After all, a student needs to be able to understand his teacher and the lessons in class.
Let’s say you spoke a little bit of French while your friend is fluent. You can imagine who will have an easier time navigating through France.
A student who knows more words will have an advantage understanding material, and all it takes is reading often and enough.
So, what exactly is enough? Just 20 minutes a day is all it takes. That can be 20 straight minutes, or different reading sessions throughout the day. Want to see just how much 20 minutes can help? Take a look at the graph below:
Such a huge difference with how many words they learn and where they fall on the scale of success at school.
Helps kids understand complex themes
Besides speaking with your child about these issues, you can also read book to help him get through it. Reading gives him ways to cope and shows how other characters deal with the same issues. He’ll know he’s not alone, and that others have experienced the same thing.
It’s one thing to explain these topics, and another to introduce books about them. They allow your child to dive into these issues in depth without being the subject of conversation.
Introduces new experiences and information
The more your child reads, the more he’ll know. Books are, after all, an important source of information, for both kids and adults. When I want to learn more about a topic, I borrow a book about it. And of course, schools have books with the sole purpose of providing information.
That habit can start now. Your child can learn how snowflakes form, or which animal runs the fastest. He can discover our solar system or how plants grow. If your child doesn’t travel much, he can still “visit” different countries and cultures.
Imagine knowing all that exciting information just from books!
Reading is a bonding experience
One of the biggest mistakes we do is make reading a chore. It’s tempting to, especially when we feel pressured or guilty when we feel like our kids don’t read enough.
But reading can and should be a bonding experience between the two of you—the close proximity, hearing the same story, the focus on your child. And sometimes the story itself can inspire awe and entertainment that you now share.
This is why it’s important not to regard reading as a chore, or to nag kids to read. Make it an enjoyable experience so it becomes a treat, not a drag.
Fosters a love of reading
Best of all, reading begets a love of reading. This is the ultimate goal: raising a child with a love of reading and learning, where reading isn’t a means to an end, but the actual experience he treasures.
What can at first be a chore can turn into a lifelong hobby. Think about exercise fans who, perhaps at first, dreaded that early morning run or trip to the gym. But over time, they benefited from this habit and now find joy in working out. The same is true for kids and reading.
Books can be just as, if not more, entertaining as other ways kids spend time. And raising a love of reading now will only cement it further when he’s an adult.
Why is it important to read aloud?
Before your child is able to read words, reading aloud is one of the easiest ways to share stories. Reading aloud introduces new vocabulary words you and I don’t always use in regular conversations (I can’t remember the last time I said, “exclaimed”).
You’re also modeling fluent, expressive reading. Listen to how you sound when you read, and when you’re speaking to others. Reading aloud from books draws out the intonation and expression you may not find in regular conversation.
And finally, reading aloud emphasizes the importance of reading for pleasure. Even if your child can already read, the act of reading aloud together makes reading that much more fun.
When should you start reading to your baby?
Some parents might feel silly reading books aloud to their babies. After all, babies don’t understand the story, much less the words. They also don’t seem to pay attention, making it slightly strange to point to books and read aloud.
But start reading to your baby from day one! Hearing your voice encourages your baby’s interests in sounds. He’s absorbing everything in his surroundings, including sounds. Reading is one of the best ways to nurture his listening skills and introduce him to your voice and tone.
Plus, reading to your baby starts the habit of reading from day one. While it’s never too late to read to your kids, starting from day one ingrains that habit from the get go.
Best practices when reading with kids
With so many benefits of reading, how can we make the most out of the experience? Below are best practices for making reading with kids positive and effective:
- Prioritize reading time. It all boils down to how important reading with your kids is to you. We’ll always have a hundred excuses, but if you make reading a priority, the other tasks on your to-do list will fall second.
- Make reading part of your routine. You’re less likely to forget to read with your kids if you make it part of your routine. Just as they sleep every night, so too should they read at a regular part of the day. Start your bedtime routine 20 minutes earlier if need be.
- Borrow a lot of books from the library. Make regular trips to the library, and borrow a lot of books each time. I go every week and borrow at least eight books. I have a friend who goes every three weeks (or whenever the books are due) and borrows upward of 30 books each time. Litter your house with books!
- Give a book as a present with each birthday or holiday. Make books a treat by giving a book with each birthday or holiday. Your kids will see them as a special item and will feel excited to read their new book.
- Read books you like to read aloud. Not all children’s books are great, or are for every parent. If you find a book you can’t stand reading, don’t force it (unless your child really loves the book!). You’ll feel more motivated reading books you enjoy than those you don’t.
- Ask your child to read to you, too. Find an age-appropriate book and take turns reading with your child if he can. He’ll love reading along and will be more likely to pay attention.
- Praise your child for being a reader. If you see him reading a book on his own, praise him afterward for being a fantastic reader. And label him as a reader—this is one label you want to instill as a personal trait. (Learn which labels you shouldn’t be using.)
- Read yourself. It’s much harder to convince your child to read when he doesn’t see you doing it himself. And try to read physical books instead of on your phone or tablet, which he might not know is a book.
- Admit your own shortcomings. None of us are perfect—we all make mistakes in this parenting journey. If you haven’t been diligent about implementing reading habits, come clean with your child, especially if he questions why he should read when you don’t. Explain you haven’t been developing the habit of reading, but you’ve learned and will now follow through. Your child may resist at first, but he’ll appreciate your honesty and understand the change.
Reading is one of those things we can do—today—that will have a lasting impact on our kids. It’s tied with so many benefits, from performing well at school to better bonding. It almost seems silly not to spend at least 20 minutes of our day reading with our kids.
But life does happen, and sometimes we don’t always get to read regularly with our kids. Try to change that moving forward. Start small, even with just one book a day. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make in your child.
Want to read with your kids, but not sure which books to start with? Download my Read Aloud Book List—at no cost to you. You’ll get hundreds of favorite selections to read aloud with your kids. Join my newsletter and get it below:
Get more tips:
- 4 Reasons Kids Need Downtime
- What to Do when Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School
- 6 Techniques to Teach Your Child to Love Math
- 6 Traits You Can Teach to Guide Kids to Success
Tell me in the comments: What are your biggest struggles that hold you back from reading regularly with your child? What is the biggest benefit you’ve seen in your child from reading every day?