We all know that reading is a good thing and we should encourage toddlers to read, but what are the benefits of reading to your child before they can read themselves?
It’s been a long day and you are exhausted. The kids have been fed, bathed, and now it’s time to finally put them down for bed. As you try to leave their room you hear a small voice asking for a story. Your mind goes straight to dirty dishes and laundry. Plus you worry if you slow down and read you may fall asleep. Despite wanting some quiet time to yourself and the chance to get the house in order you give in. Plus you don’t want to lose out on setting up your children for future academic success. Let me lay out 5 reasons why making the sacrifice to read to your little ones is totally worth it.
Reason # 1 – Sustained Focus
With the constant bombardment of visual media that progressively decreases our attention spans, it can be hard to have sustained focus. Our children will need that skill in school, work, and in problem solving. Reading to your children will develop and reinforce an ability to focus on a task. Additionally, children showing an interest in paper books in spite of all the attractive electronic devices should be reinforced. Books will be a part of their academic future.
Reason # 2 – Learning About Their World
Reading books exposes your child to parts of the world they may be unfamiliar with. Whether it’s animals, a different culture, or human behaviors you are exposing your children to new parts of our world that become teachable moments. Of course we would love to take our children out to experience the world, but without the time to do so, a book can act as that field trip to a part of the world they have never seen. View books as ways to expand your child’s knowledge of the world and stimulate their curiosity.
Reason # 3 – Develop Critical Thinking
If you think of reading books to your children as a task you have to do, that makes it one-sided. Learning is more effective when it is two-sided like conversation. Rather than just reading and telling your child what is in the book, try asking them. When you get to a page ask your child what they think is happening. Let them try to figure it out. You’ll be surprised at what they see and then you can guide their understanding. By allowing them to figure out the new knowledge you are developing their independent, critical thinking skills. Unfortunately our schools don’t always cultivate that, but we know in our economy those that can problem solve can make lots of money.
Reason # 4 – All the Academic Benefits
I don’t even have to cite all the studies that show when children are read to at an early age it improves their vocabulary, language acquisition, reading comprehension, etc. Of course all parents want their children to be successful in school. In the ever increasing competitive academic environments at Pre-K, private/charter/public school options, college scholarships, etc. any edge will help. What you may be seeing is that our schools are moving more and more towards individualized learning. With adaptive and responsive learning systems, A.I., and the like it is much more likely that our children will be learning faster at their pace. Early reading will get them equipped with those basic skills (language/comprehension/etc.) so they can progress even faster in those environments.
Reason # 5 – Nurturing Our Children’s Interests
I spoke to a mom who had identical triplets. She told me she read equally to all 3 of her sons early and reinforced the importance of reading. Two of her sons excelled academically, while the third struggled immensely. She couldn’t understand why her third son did not excel like the other two. As her sons grew up she realized her third son had a vastly different interests than his brothers. Her third son ended up in a career in mechanics. The other two thrived in the traditional learning environment. So although all 3 boys were reading the same books only two of them were deeply interested. Her third son who had a natural interest mechanics was rarely exposed to those topics as a child. She believed that had she provided more books on her third son’s interests his reading and academic skills would have been more advanced.
Children all have natural talents and interests. Books are an easy way to find and nurture those talents. Once you find those interests you can drive their cognitive growth through those topics.
Next time you hear that little voice asking you to read a book, remember you are not just reading a book . . . you are developing crucial life skills, unlocking interests, and building your child into an independent learner. Reading to your child each night is like investing money with compounding interest, the dividends are being built up and will eventually become very valuable.