What’s the importance of reading to children? There’s a big difference between children whose parents read to them daily and those that don’t. In fact, children whose parents read them 5 books a day have heard 1.4 million more words by the time they reach kindergarten than children whose parents do not read to them.
But reading is important at every stage of development in your child’s life-- not just before they get to school. From the time they are in the womb, you can instill a love of learning, command of the language, and strong reading skills, just by reading to and with your child.
So what are the benefits of reading to children regularly as they grow? Let’s break it down:
Reading Aloud During Pregnancy
Babies can actually hear their mothers’ voices during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, so if you’re anxious and excited for your little one to arrive, you can start to read to them during those last few months.
At this stage, unborn babies can start to listen and learn, and may even be able to understand language before they are ever born. When you read aloud to your baby in utero, you are giving them a foundation for language development.
How strong is the evidence to suggest that reading and talking to your baby in the womb is beneficial? Babies pick up a lot before they’re born. Just a few hours after birth, a baby can distinguish their mother’s native language from a foreign language. So, crack open those books you received at the baby shower and start reading to your baby!
Reading to Infants (0-12 Months)
Once your baby arrives, it’s never too early to start reading with them. Exposing your infant to books gives them a strong foundation and understanding of how books work, and will practice turning the pages, and engage with the physical book itself.
Also, reading to infants is a great way to build emotional awareness and an awareness of language. By using different voices for characters and using expressive sounds, your baby learns about the world around them. Even just hearing words out loud gives them a fundamental understanding of how language and communication work. They start to learn the sounds that make up their native language, and they build a network of words in their brain.
At this age, reading also establishes a bond between you and your baby. And it shows them that reading is important-- books are associated with happiness, joy, and fun times with their parent. Reading becomes exciting for them. Reading books at this age creates a love of reading.
Reading and Toddlers
From ages 1 to 3, your toddler may seem very engaged with the pictures in their book, but they are also learning a great deal about language too. Your toddler hears the words in the book, which reinforces their knowledge of how words are pronounced and enunciated-- as well as how simple sentences are structured. Reading for toddlers means they start to fall in love with stories, and they can take ownership of diving into their favorite book, identifying images in the illustrations and becoming confident in their verbal skills.
Reading with your toddler also fosters a level of pre-literacy. What does pre-literacy mean? Pre-literacy encompasses a wide range of abilities when it comes to awareness of books and reading, including:
- Developing rhythm and rhyme
- Discriminating sounds and syllables in words
- Being able to pay attention and react to a story.
Even turning the page and identifying the pictures in the book as corresponding to the story is an important skill that your toddler can learn from reading with you. Also, asking them, “What’s that?” and allowing them an opportunity to respond by pointing out what they see in the picture develops language skills and a love of reading.
Sharing books with your preschoolers
By the time children reach preschool, between ages 3 and 5, chances are they have a favorite book that you read with them over and over again. As their verbal language skills really start to blossom, your preschooler can also learn new words and expand their vocabulary, thanks to hearing you read aloud to them.
Your preschooler can also work on starting to identify letters, numbers, and some small words as they prepare for grade school, which is all part of pre-literacy too.
Reading and Your Grade School Child
Why should you continue to read to your grade school-aged child? Reading for kids, and reading aloud together, is a great way to continue to foster their love of books, reading, and learning.
Reading helps expand grade-schoolers’ world views and teaches them empathy. They learn about people and places outside of their own experiences, and learn what it is like to live, breathe, and feel emotions in these stories.
Additionally, as your elementary-aged child’s reading skills grow, they will start to read books that are more descriptive than spoken language. This too aids in the development of their language capabilities.
The Benefits of Reading for Adolescents
By the time your child reaches junior high and high school, between the ages of 13 and 18, they are much more independent, and this is also the case for their reading skills as well.
Books can introduce your teenager to new styles and forms of literature, and spark new interests. As the volume of reading that your child has to complete for school increases, reading can start to feel tiresome, or like a chore rather than something fun and exciting.
Since this can oftentimes be the case, it’s up to you as the parent to encourage them to read new kinds of books, and to explore all kinds of genres. It’s about finding books that appeal to their interests and individual tastes. And as their parent, you can model why it’s important to keep reading. Your adolescent will see you invested in your favorite book, and they will see that reading doesn’t just have to be homework; it can be fun as well.
Why not use storytime as an opportunity to hone German language skills too? If your child is learning to speak and read German, you can encourage this by sharing German books with them at bedtime and storytime.
After all, there are all kinds of benefits to learning a second language at an early age. When you incorporate German literature and children’s books into the time you spend reading together, not only will your child learn to love to read, but they will also learn to love German, too.