If you think reading out loud to your wee one is just a way to bond, think again. A local expert details four proven and long-lasting benefits of reading aloud to babies.
New parents often receive tips and advice from a variety of sources. While the information may seem overwhelming, there is one piece of advice that both teachers and pediatricians would like you to follow: Read to your baby.
Research shows that it's best to instill a love of books and reading from birth. Reading one-on-one to children is nurturing and helps develop the relationship between parent and child while also encouraging a positive connection between children and books. Children who grow up in families that embrace and encourage reading during the early years are more likely to learn to read on schedule and enjoy reading. Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills, it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory.
Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Baby
• Reading aloud sets the stage for school readiness. It can promote emergent literacy and language development. It helps children become familiar with books and accustomed to listening and focusing. It will also give them an early awareness of the art of reading.
• Reading aloud stimulates language skills, cognitive thinking skills, and enhances memory. And this is all while engaging a child and encouraging curiosity and creative exploration of the world around them. According to analyses of the PISA exam (Programme for International Student Assessment), which is given to 15-year-olds worldwide, the biggest factor influencing higher scores was whether or not a child was read to on a regular basis when they were young.
• Reading books aloud can also help build a child's vocabulary. Children who grow up in homes where they are read to and talked to regularly will have a much greater vocabulary. Reading aloud also provides children with vocabulary words that they will use throughout life. Research shows that the average children's books contain 50 percent more unique words than a television show or a typical conversation between two educated adults. While babies may not understand the concepts and story lines of books, hearing your voice is comforting and, in time, the child will find meaning in the words you are using. In fact, the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child's vocabulary at age 3.
• Reading aloud helps children bond with their parents. While developing children's language and communication skills, reading also helps children understand the world around them and gives context to what they see and experience. Reading is a way to open the world for your child.
Read to your baby and do so regularly. Open a book and you'll open doors for future successes. In the words of Dr. Seuss: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."
Did You Know?
• In addition to reading to your baby, simply narrating your daily activities to your child can also help expand his vocabulary. Talking, singing, and rhyming to your baby can help enhance the parent-child relationship while also setting the stage for future communication skills.
• Almost 90 percent of a child's brain is developed by age 5. Your facial expressions, your voice, your touch—everything you do and say in front of a young child—helps your child learn.
• As children grow beyond the baby years, a transition occurs from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." Because kids are learning phonetic combinations at school and exploring reading more on a practical side, the love of reading is best fostered at home and supported by you, the parent.
Colleen D. Multari, LMSW, is director of early learning at The Early Years Institute in Plainview. The Early Years Institute educates parents, professionals, and the public about the importance of children's early years on their development, bringing together community leaders to make bold investments in young children to give them the best start in life.
Visit nymetroparents.com/10-reading-tips for advice on making story time special and fun.
For specific tips on how to raise a confident reader, from baby to age 7, go to nymetroparents.com/raise-readers.