Reading is happening earlier and earlier in schools. There used to be a time when children didn’t learn to read until first grade, kindergarten was only a half day, and preschools were really just daycares. In today’s education system, however, Kindergarten is the full day, reading happens right away, and if your child didn’t/doesn’t go to preschool chances are they will be behind when they get into Kindergarten.
This switch has caused early literacy to become the forefront of much debate. Often times making families feel they need to read to their children even earlier than before, and asking parents to make reading a larger priority from a younger age. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your baby from birth. But why?
Research is clear, children who are raised in a home with reading and where literacy and language are a priority, do better in school than those in families who don’t. Early language and literacy play such a key role in the learning experiences that they are linked to academic achievement, reduced grade retention, higher graduation rates, and enhanced productivity in adult life.
I’ve worked in early childhood education for 11 years. I have worked in schools with affluent families and schools with the lowest of the lowest income families. I have seen first hand in both situations how reading affects children. Starting from birth, children are making connections to language, literacy, social-emotional skills, and to reading in general.
Here is a more in-depth view of what the research says:
- Reading builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills:
- Experts agree by talking, reading, rhyming, and singing to baby you are helping to build strong networks of words in a baby’s brain. Studies have shown that children who were read to as newborns have a larger vocabulary compared to families who didn’t. In fact, children who have parents who’ve read and talked to them know more words by the time they turn two than children who haven’t. Another study showed that babies whose family talk to them regularly scored higher on standardized tests when they turned three compared to families who talked less.
- When you read to your child you use many different emotions and expressive sounds helping to develop strong social-emotional skills. Dr. Mary Ann Abrams, MD, Reach Out and Read’s Medical Director says, “You simply can’t hear that type of emotion in music or through watching TV. The spoken word conveys the idea that words have meaning and certain sounds mean certain things.”
- Babies who read with their parents have many opportunities to look, point, touch, ask, and answer questions. This ability promotes social development and thinking skills which will help them process the world around them as they get older. They also get many opportunities to grow their language skills by imitating sounds, recognizing pictures, and learning words.
- Creates a strong bond and relationship between child and parents:
- Reading to your baby combines the things they love the most, your voice, having a special closeness to you, and books. Reading books to your baby can create a one-on-one activity. Reading can be added to many different special times between you and your baby/child. These special times can build a strong and lasting bond with both the parents as well as the child. A study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics showed that parents who read books in the NICU were able to enhance the parent-infant interaction and connection to that of a parent of a healthy newborn in the days and weeks after the baby’s birth. Meaning parents of NICU babies were able to build strong relationships with their children by reading, the same relationships that parents of healthy children are able to build right away.
- Shows reading is fun:
- Reading with your baby helps them associate reading with joy, happiness, excitement, and closeness. These feelings allow babies and children to associate books with love and happiness. It also shows baby/child that reading is a skill worth learning. By making reading a part of your regular family routine it teaches children early on that reading is something they can enjoy and not something they HAVE TO DO for school. This enjoyment will create a love for reading that will follow them through school and into adulthood.
With all the research it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how and why reading is so important. I know some families have a hard time finding the right books, fitting reading into their schedule, or getting the children to enjoy or sit still for the books you are reading. Next week I will share some amazing tips on how to make reading a part of your family’s daily life. What are some struggles you have faced with trying to incorporate more reading into your lifestyle?