There’s nothing lovelier than snuggling your child’s warm little body next to yours and reading a story. Bedtime books are such a blissful way to cap off the day (albeit repetitive when you’re reading the same story for the hundredth time!).
While daily story time is beautifully bonding, the benefits for your child go well beyond the quality one-on-one time with you.
Here are nine reasons why reading to your child daily is the absolute best thing you can do together.
1. You’re giving him a head-start
Did you know that reading is hands-down the best activity for helping your child increase his vocabulary, understand words, improve listening comprehension and enhance creativity? It’s little wonder that very young children who are regularly read to have an advantage over their peers by the time they reach school. It’s a sad fact that one in five children starts school in Australia ‘developmentally vulnerable’ in at least one area – such as language, cognitive skills or communication. Your daily reading ritual will help to safeguard your child from starting behind the eight ball. Plus research has found it can even raise your child’s IQ by over six points!
2. You’re teaching him about his world
Books help children understand the world around us. They give a narrative to events, places, people and things – even Hairy Maclary venturing out for a stroll teaches children that there are different types of dogs and that it’s OK to be scared (in this case, of cats!). In fact, brain scans of children being read to, show that different regions of their brains, such as those involved in understanding the concept of words and memory, are activated and highly engaged during a reading session.
3. You’re strengthening your bond
We don’t need a study – although they are out there – to prove to us that cuddling up to our child makes us feel close. Story time gives little ones a sense of intimacy and wellbeing and it goes without saying that it’s a really nice thing to do together.
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4. You’re boosting his speech development
Babies’ and young children’s speech is developing at a rate of knots. Simply talking to your little one is a fantastic and natural way to push this along, but research has found that story time is even more effective in building vocabulary. A study by Rhode Island Hospital found eight-month-old babies who were read to regularly had their ‘receptive’ vocabularies (the number of words they understand) increase by 40 percent during babyhood. Those who weren’t read to experienced only a 16 percent increase.
5. You’re introducing him to the beginnings of literacy
Reading in babyhood and the early years introduces your little one to the world of literacy. This includes familiarising them with the shape of letters, teaching that books are read from left to right, the rhythm of reading and so much more. According to a University of California study, reading aloud is the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding, which forms the basis for independent reading down the track.
6. You’re teaching him concepts
He may just like to open the flaps, but when you read him his favourite Spot book, you’re actually teaching him about cause and effect. Likewise, other stories your child delights in might serve to teach him about the consequences of actions, the basis of right and wrong, up and down and so on.
7. You’re helping him to fall in love with reading
You might think you are just giving him a pleasurable experience by cuddling your little one and reading a book he adores, but you are also planting a seed of love for books. He’s learning that books are fun, but also that they are an exciting way to find things out.
8. You’re teaching him maths and more
All those counting books might be getting a bit repetitive now, but rest assured the message is sinking in. Your child will learn to rote count from them (the memory of number sequence) but will also start to grasp how to add. The day he points his chubby little fingers at the pictures of the ducks on the page and starts counting them is the start. Likewise, books about shapes, colours and letters are all expanding his knowledge.
9. You’re fuelling his thirst for knowledge
As children grow, so do their attention spans. While you may only be reading picture books with a few words in them now, as your child expands his reading horizons, his attention span and interests will grow too. He might really be into trucks now but soon this will progress to other forms of transportation like planes and rockets, and before you know it, you’ll be reading him books about outer space, science and technology.