Benefits of Reading Aloud to Young Children
Remember the times when you were read to by your teachers or your parents? Do you remember how it felt? Well, before reading any further, close your eyes and take a moment to step back into those good old childhood days.
There is nothing that matters as much as reading aloud to kids of all ages, at school, or at home. Early language starts from hearing and studies show that reading aloud, more than talking, builds literacy. A study found that picture books are two or three times more likely than parent-child conversations to include words that are not among the 5,000 most common words (Massaro, 2015). Adults and parents use limited vocabulary while talking. Reading aloud to kids exposes them to new words and vocabulary that are not commonly used in everyday conversations.
Another study found a "million word gap" in kids entering kindergarten who were not read to at home (Logan, Justice et al, 2019). Parents who read five books a day to their kids enter kindergarten hearing 1.4 million more words than the kids who are never read to at home. This is one of the key factors in explaining the differences in vocabulary and reading development of young children. Reading aloud also teaches kids to be good listeners, an important skill to become good readers.
Apart from the benefits in promoting early language and literacy skills, reading aloud to kids has also shown to have a sustained impact on shaping the social and emotional development of young kids. A study by Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, has found significant positive impact on the behavior of very young kids, including reduced aggression and hyperactivity. Reading aloud, talking about the story, and playing imaginative games with parents offers kids special social and emotional bonding opportunities that fosters a positive attitude toward reading.
However, once the kids begin to read themselves, the parents might feel they no longer need to read aloud to their kids. On the contrary, a study found that kids do enjoy the reading time with their parents and would like this to continue even when they can read independently. It is important for parents to continue to keep reading with their kids for as long as possible. Shared reading with your kids offers many benefits that include enriched language exposure, developing listening skills, spelling, vocabulary and reading comprehension. The most important impact of reading aloud, in addition to creating moments of joy with your child, is to help your child form a life-long love of reading. Emilie Buchwald rightly says, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." Be that parent and invest a small portion of your time everyday reading aloud to your children or reading with them.
- Massaro, Dominic W. "Two Different Communication Genres and Implications for Vocabulary Development and Learning to Read." Journal of Literacy Research, vol. 47, no. 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 505–527, doi: 10.1177/1086296X15627528.
- Jessica A. R. Logan, Laura M. Justice, Melike Yumuş, Leydi Johana Chaparro-Moreno. When Children Are Not Read to at Home. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000657
- Alan L. Mendelsohn, Carolyn Brockmeyer Cates, Adriana Weisleder, Samantha Berkule Johnson, Anne M. Seery, Caitlin F. Canfield, Harris S. Huberman and Benard P. Dreyer Pediatrics May 2018, 141 (5) e20173393; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3393