Whether you open a chapter book or select a pile of favorite picture books, curling up with your child to read can be the perfect way to spend time together. You may both think that this is just some quality time spent without screens. In reality, you are planting seeds for an enormous harvest of advantages for your child.
Bay Street Pediatrics is here to explain five ways reading aloud to your child – at any age – benefits them.
1) Making sounds build words and muscles
Infants and babies hear sounds first when you read to them. Those sounds then take shape as words as their understanding grows. Reading playful books introduces our babies to the joy of making sounds and speaking words themselves, aiding with enunciation and elocution development. Here at Bay Street, we love “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” The reader plays with the sounds of a bee buzz, the “boom” of thunder and even the sizzle of an egg in a frying pan. Encourage infants and toddlers to imitate sounds, strengthening the muscles in their lips, tongue, cheeks and mouth.
2) Build a robust vocabulary
When you read aloud to your child, they hear new words within a context, giving them clues to the definition. They’ll learn the pronunciation and understand how to use the word in a sentence. When the meaning is not clear, your child then learns something new as they discover the definition. You can discuss together why this particular word was chosen by the author, brainstorm about alternative words and how that might change the meaning of the sentence or story. Understanding the difference between words such as “happy”, “delighted” and “jubilant” expands your child’s ability to express themselves precisely.
Studies show that when caregivers read multiple stories aloud to kids each day, children start kindergarten knowing about 1.4 million more words than kids who read to less frequently. That’s a compelling reason to read aloud!
3) Reading builds empathy and problem solving skills
At the end of each page, ask your child what they think will happen next and why. At any age and in every level of book, your child will learn quickly that stories and conversations can go in many different directions, with very few “wrong” answers. Your child will understand the concepts of past, present and future. They will also build executive function skills like planning, memory, flexibility and inhibition control.
Because your child is carefully thinking through the characters’ situations, defining the problems and considering all possible solutions, they are also building empathy. Studies show that kids who are read to are less aggressive and have fewer behavior problems, with the effects lasting well into their school years.
4) Explore the world through books
When a child enjoys a story about a character in a different circumstance, country or culture – even if it’s a mouse that loves classical music – it gives you an opportunity to introduce them to much more. Explore cooking new foods as your child learns to follow instructions, make accurate measurements and enjoy new flavors. Play games or do activities mentioned in books, perhaps playing Quidditch or listening to Bach and Beethoven. Use Google Maps to find book settings and take a peek at Loch Ness or the beaches of San Diego.
5) You and your child are building a strong, lasting connection
Whenever you read together, whether you have a set schedule before naps and bedtimes or if drop on the couch at any time of day, reading aloud to your child sets a cornerstone of a strong and connected parent-child relationship. As you talk about characters and emotions, your child will share theirs with you. You’ll be able to guide decisions and shape values as you discuss plots, characters and conclusions. But mostly, you’ll be developing a deep love and respect for each other as you and your child read together.
If you have questions about the effect reading has on your child and their language development, just message us through your patient portal. Your Bay Street Pediatrics provider will be happy to help!