Parents want what’s best for their children, and many ask what expensive toys they should buy, what extracurricular activities they should be involved in, or if they should be playing classical music at home to advance brain development.
Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, has a straightforward answer in regards to what’s best for children.
He says, “Read to your children.”
Starting at birth, reading with children puts them on the path to success. In fact, researchers determined that reading aloud to young children is the single most important thing that parents can do to prime children for school success.
Here are three benefits of reading aloud with children.
Benefit #1: Increased Vocabulary and Sophisticated Language Patterns
When it comes to prekindergarten skills, vocabulary is a prime predictor of school success or failure. When you read aloud to children, they hear words that do not ordinarily come up in conversations. Because of this, it expands a child’s vocabulary faster than anything else does.
The value picture books play in vocabulary development should not be underestimated. Many of them are written grammatically correct and include sophisticated writing that is rich in content and meaning. As children listen to these stories, their vocabularies strengthen without effort.
Benefit #2: Ability to Make Connections
Reading comprehension is critical. We take the work of decoding out when we read aloud. This lets children use their mental energy to enjoy and make connections, which improves reading comprehension.
Children need to understand what they read and apply it to what they know. That is making connections. Children connect the information they encounter for the first time with other facts and ideas they have already encountered. They compare it to other stories they’ve heard, personal events they’ve encountered, and to the world beyond themselves.
Without even intending to, children make connections every time a book is opened. Stories allow them to slip into another world, think deeply, bond with characters, and educate their hearts and mind.
Benefit #3: A Love for Reading
More important than teaching children, the actual skill of reading is to cultivate natural curiosity and love of reading. When we focus on nurturing children’s love of stories, we get both kids who can read as well as kids who do read. A healthy reading life has a tremendous impact on children’s academic success.
In a world full of noise and the hustle and bustle, pulling a child on your lap and reading is one of the best uses of your time and energy. It may seem simple, but being fully present and sharing good stories makes a huge and lasting impact because a childhood filled with stories inspires and nurtures children. Therefore, read widely to spark that ember. Author Linda Sue Park said, “A book can’t change the world on its own, but a book can change readers. And readers? They can change the world.”
So, the next time you spend time reading with your children, just remember, each time you turn the page you just might be changing the world.
Mackenzie, S. (2018). The read-aloud family: making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSREAD98.PDF
TEDxBeaconStreet. (2015, December). Can A Children’s Book Change the World? Linda Sue Park. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/40xz0afCjnM
JACKIE STEFFEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child
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