Reading is a wonderful way to introduce a child to a world of creativity and imagination. Reading with young children can help them develop a skill that they will use for the rest of their life while fostering a love of an activity that also enhances brain development. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to reading prior to preschool tend to develop larger vocabularies and are more likely to succeed during their formal education. If a child is not proficient in reading by 3rd grade, they are at a higher risk for not graduating from high school.
In addition to the developmental benefits, snuggling up with a book together can strengthen the physical and emotional bond between adult and child. A night-time routine that includes a bedtime story can be enjoyable and relaxing, while the benefits can continue even after a child goes to sleep. While their body is shutting down for the night, a child’s imagination can continue, helping a mind absorb what was read or even incorporate stories into dreams.
Building an Early Foundation
Reading together can start as early as infancy. In the first months of life, reading can start with books containing high contrast images, or touch-and-feel books which help a child’s visual and brain development. Hearing the voice of their loved one can not only be soothing and provide a sense of security, but it can also help the brain form meaningful connections.
Reading throughout childhood stimulates development of language skills. As toddlers are being read to, they learn enunciation skills and learn sounds that form language while a preschooler will start to sound out words on their own. The written language used in books could include words they may not hear in everyday conversation which in turn helps to develop a broader vocabulary. In short, the more adults read to kids, the larger the child’s vocabulary will be, and the better the educational outcomes will be later in life.
Learning to Express Themselves
Reading together allows children to learn different ways to express themselves. Pages in a book can build connections with the world around them by using their personal experiences to build an association with what they are reading in their books. Stories help children to think about and understand both previous experiences as well as new situations which they may encounter in the future.
Physicians and educators have been touting the benefits of early childhood reading for years, and studies have confirmed that starting young helps build a solid foundation for learning and emotional development. The positive outcomes and importance of reading should continue to be emphasized, and programs such as “Reach Out and Read” help reach communities who otherwise may not be exposed to or have access to resources to help their children succeed.
We look forward to the development of our “Reach Out and Read” program here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as well as the continued growth of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Ohio, of which we are an affiliate, so that more children can share in the joy that comes from jumping into a story.
Sinimol James, MD, is a physician in the Section of Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Dr. James works at the main campus urgent care as well as the primary care clinic.
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