We hear all the time about the power of reading, but how important is it, really? Starting to read to your child as soon as possible touches almost every aspect of their lives down the road, so you must make it a priority. While this article could easily go on for days about the benefits of a bedtime story, we are just going to highlight four major ones here today.
Introduces New Vocabulary
As important as chatting with your children is, taking a moment to read a book to them has some profound benefits above and beyond just talking. One widely cited study looked at parents who read to their kids every day from birth until age five. The study found that by reading between one and five books per day, parents can expose their children to between 290,000 and a million new words by the time they hit kindergarten!
Is reading to your child so different than just talking to them? The answer: an author’s job is to use words that add flavor and texture to the reading experience. While you likely know the words you are reading to your child, they might not be words that you use in your everyday conversations.
Take this excerpt from popular children’s book series, Fancy Nancy:
“I adore autumn.
Autumn is a fancy word for fall.
The air is so crisp.
The foliage is so colorful.
Foliage means leaves on the trees.”
Jane O’Connor, the author of Fancy Nancy, specifically uses “fancier” vocabulary and then immediately explains it so that kids can use either word in their everyday conversations. “Autumn” and “foliage” aren’t technically difficult words, but if you think about it, you probably use “fall” and “leaves” in your daily conversation with your children. Now, instead of just having two words to explain things they see during the season, suddenly your children have four! Reading books by published children’s authors sets your child up to hear all kinds of new vocabulary that will only benefit their literacy skills in the future.
Strengthens the Brain
We could go on for days about the ways reading strengthens the brain, but we will settle on three ways here:
- Imagination: Whether or not you read books with pictures to your children, being read to daily helps strengthen their imagination. It develops that part of their brain that conjures up pictures, which helps other important areas like math, social development, and writing.
- Comprehension: Your brain needs a lot of practice in order to process all that is going on in the surrounding world, and reading gives it ample opportunity. Instead of just reading the book word-for-word, it’s great if you stop every so often and ask your child what is going on. Doing that helps your child tune into procedural understanding, patterns, character development, prediction, inference, and many other crucial literacy aspects.
- Empathy and Social Awareness: Reading books gives your children low-stress opportunities to think through what they would do in a variety of social experiences. It allows them to put themselves into another character’s shoes to determine what makes that character feel or act a certain way – a valuable skill for social experiences they will have in real life.
Gives You a Chance to Talk About Things
Books provide a way to talk to your children about things that are challenging to understand. Themes of sharing, friendship, happiness, kindness, and inclusion are as prevalent as themes on loneliness, race, mental illness, and death. By reading books across all genres, you give your children experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have, which gives them practice understanding many situations in a low-key way.
It’s not just about the themes, though. By reading books of all sorts, you expose your children to different people, animals, and cultures from around the world. A non-fiction picture book about Australia will give them all kinds of new vocabulary and knowledge, whereas a book with Chinese folktales will offer an entirely different, valuable experience.
Reading a variety of books gives you a chance to talk about things that might not come up in your regular interactions with your children. These conversations help your children understand big concepts and become more well-rounded individuals.
Enhances the Bedtime Routine
Your children’s bedtime routine is a significant part of how well they sleep at night, as anyone who has tried to skip the nighttime drink or song will know. By incorporating a bedtime story into the nighttime routine, you are signaling to your child’s body that it is time to start calming down for the night.
Not only that, but by cuddling in at night and reading a favorite story with your child, you are actively demonstrating that you enjoy their company and value their insight. Asking them to tell you a favorite part or “read” a repetitive verse along with you shows them that you like interacting with them and sharing that experience. Additionally, using silly voices or accents can create fun memories that will stay with your child for a lifetime.
There isn’t a right or wrong bedtime routine, but it shouldn’t last more than a half-hour from start to finish. That might break down to 15 minutes for bath and pajamas, 5 minutes for toothbrushing and drink-getting, and about 10 minutes for reading a couple of books and singing a song. Having a consistent bedtime routine can help train your child to sleep on their own and through the night, so it’s crucial that you keep to your schedule as much as possible.
Reading with your children is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. It helps their language development, social skills, math, writing, fluency, vocabulary – the list could go on and on. By carving out just a few minutes every day to read with your children, you are giving them an invaluable gift that will shape the rest of their lives.
If you need more help with bedtime routines, ending bedtime battles, or getting your child to sleep through the night, contact our certified baby sleep trainers at Tiny Transitions. And if you have a passion for helping families get their sleep schedules back on track, you can hone your skills and share them with others. Through Tiny Transition’s Sleep Consultant Certification and Business Coaching Course, you can turn your interests into a pediatric sleep training business. We’ll give you all the skills you need to change families’ lives and coach and mentor you as you launch and scale your new business.