How Reading Helps Children’s Development
Among the many, many children’s books in my house, there are several that have an inscription from my grandparents and a sticker from Vroman’s, the bookstore where they shopped their entire lives. There is no doubt in my mind that these gifts from my grandparents contributed to my love of reading.
My grandparents were not unique in sharing their love of books with their grandchildren: many of us do the same. And with good reason—books are an easy and meaningful way to connect generations. Whether they are asking us to read their favorite story, or we are sharing a book that their mother loved as a child, we are weaving connections to one another.
But do you know just how much sharing books with your grandchildren helps them? Reading boosts children’s development in a multitude of ways.
Children who are read five books a day enter kindergarten having heard 1.4 MILLION more words than children who aren’t read to. Many of those words are ones that wouldn’t enter into a normal conversation, providing children a huge boost in vocabulary and comprehension. Being read to also helps children identify names and sounds of alphabet letters and understand concepts like rhyming words. It exposes them to story structure and character development. All of these elements combine to improve their communication and comprehension skills.
When a child is read to, brain cells start firing, new cells are created and new neural connections are made. The complexity and definition this adds to a child’s brain will last long into adulthood. Something as simple as understanding the differences between words and pictures is an important step in learning. Books also help children recognize patterns and learn to make predictions about what will happen. Their imagination and curiosity both blossom as they encounter new ideas.
Social and Emotional Development
Books also help children to learn ways to manage their emotions and behaviors. Through stories, they see that there are different ways to handle common situations. As they hear about a character encountering a problem, they learn new ways to process their own feelings. Making connections between the story and their own life helps them to understand their own experiences.
How This Adds Up
Research has shown that reading to young children gives them a measurable head-start in life. A comprehensive study out of Australia found that, “The frequency of reading to children at a young age has a direct causal effect on their schooling outcomes regardless of their family background and home environment.”* The study showed that children who were read to the most tested up to a year ahead of their peers who did not have the same early exposure to books.
Thanks to video chats, we can read to our grandchildren even when we can’t be with them. It’s one of the main ways I spend time with my grands, whether we are together or apart.
Check out some of our book recommendations here and here.
*2012 research report, Reading to young children: a head-start in life, authored by: G. Kalb and J.C. van Ours (Australia)