Read to your child if you really care!

July 08, 2020

Being a parent is a full-time job. There is a lot you have to do to bring up a healthy, curious, and active child. But if reading stories is not part of their daily routine, despite everything you do for them, you are depriving their mind of nourishment and affecting their cognitive and socio-emotional development.

In the words of Dr. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre – “I think we have learned that early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids. It does have an important role to play in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading.”

Pathway to language development

It is now well-documented that early literacy is the cornerstone of the educational and professional achievements. When you read to your child, you are setting them up for success. It is because the more you read to them, the better their language, vocabulary, listening and comprehension skills, and early reading abilities become. Reading aloud to children has a direct impact on their speech development as they pay attention to the words they are hearing. Because children learn to speak by listening to adults, an environment rich in spoken-language stimulates their speech development.

The spoken-language skills acquired by children, in turn, facilitate the development of reading skills. As children already have a sizable vocabulary and know the meaning of spoken words before they learn to read, their brain is better-equipped to comprehend the printed text as they start reading. Reading to children also creates an interest in books as a source of knowledge, which can feed into their motivation for reading.

Recognizing that there is a relationship between growing up with books and reading aloud, and language development, the American Academy of Paediatrics now advises pediatricians to recommend all new parents to read to their child starting from birth.

Rich vocabulary and imagination

Recent research showed that children whose parents regularly read picture books to them showed greater activation of that part of the brain, which processes multi-sensory stimuli – sound and visual even when they did not see the pictures. The higher activity in this region was triggered by their imagination, as they listened to the story. The implication is that children with more exposure to picture books are better-positioned to make images and stories out of words. Reading stories stimulates their imagination and creativity.

Another significant advantage of reading stories to children is that it adds more unique words to their repertoire than child-directed everyday speech. It happens because books contain a more diverse set of words, and children whose parents read books to them are building a richer vocabulary compared to those whose parents do not read books to them.

It is well-understood that there is no alternative to reading stories to children, not only because of its widespread impact on their cognitive development but also because of the joy it gives them. Like all good habits in life, love for reading starts early, and it stays with them for life.

Here is a quote from Mary Ellen Chase, an American scholar, teacher, and writer that sums it up beautifully:

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.”

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