Think back to some of your favourite memories from your childhood. Chances are, these memories include times where you cosied up next to a loved one as they read to you from your favourite book. You may not even remember any book titles in particular, but just the warm, loving feelings that you received from this special reading time, and have carried into your adult life. And this feeling is still universal today, with the overwhelming majority of kids saying that they love being read books aloud at home—the main reason being because it is a special time with a loved one. Creating these cherished read-aloud moments with your child allows them to form a positive association with books, both during childhood and well into their adult lives.
Not only is reading aloud an important family bonding method that creates lifelong memories, but it also has multiple proven cognitive benefits for children.
Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emerging literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent.
Reading aloud helps to expand a child’s vocabulary and stimulate language development from a young age. It can also improve a child’s memory, concentration, grammar skills and mathematical capabilities.
These improved cognitive skills are especially beneficial once a child begins their academic journey. By the time they start school, children who have been read aloud to from a young age have been exposed to new ideas and hundreds of uncommon words and phrases. One study found that some children hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their peers by the time they enter school. This constant exposure to the written word improves a child’s writing and listening skills, analytical abilities, reasoning processes, attention span and general knowledge of the world around them. However, regularly reading aloud also has benefits that extend beyond a child’s success at school. Reading aloud is an excellent way to help children deal with stress and anxiety, and can also help ease aggression and hyperactivity. It encourages curiosity and allows for deeper social and emotional development—being exposed to the lives and stories of countless characters stimulates a child’s empathy by sharing in their thoughts and feelings.
Despite the extensive benefits of reading aloud, research has found that, while 84% of parents start reading to their child before they turn six, one in five parents stop reading to their child before age—usually in an effort to promote independent reading. Conversely, of those children whose parents no longer read books aloud at home, more than half did not want their parents to stop.
Did you know that just 10 minutes of reading a day will change your child’s life? While that may seem like a big statement to make, numerous studies have consistently shown that 10 minutes exposure to reading materials each day is all it takes to positively shape your child’s future. And this doesn’t just include complicated educational texts—any reading materials, be it comic books, novels, picture books, recipes, the television guide or the back of food packets, all count towards your child’s daily reading goal. Reading any of these materials for 10 minutes a day exposes your child to more than 600,000 words in one year—interestingly, that’s more than double the word exposure of a child who only reads for 5 minutes or less each day.
The benefit of this word exposure is immense—research shows us that reading more improves a child’s performance in general knowledge, vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency and spelling. But this goal of reading for 10 minutes each day isn’t only to improve your child’s academic success; the effects of this achievement are far more long-term than you may have anticipated.
As Dr. Seuss wisely penned,
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
Reading for pleasure is a skill that will safely carry your child to success well into their adult life, broadening their horizons and opportunities. So how does reading benefit your child outside a classroom environment?
Reading improves a person’s empathy and emotional intelligence, allowing them to better understand the people and the world around them, which is especially important in today’s connected world. It fights against memory loss and has even been shown to slow the progress of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia—the brain is a muscle and regular exercise, such as reading each day, helps keep it healthy and stimulated.
As our lives continue to get busier, stress and the negative effects that it has on our physical and mental health can take its toll. However, research has shown that reading can be one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce stress levels. Reading for just a few minutes can reduce stress levels by more than two thirds, allowing the body to relax as the mind is granted a much-needed distraction from everyday worries. Reading also improves a person’s concentration, verbal and analytical skills, decision-making and emotional processing.
The benefits to continue reading aloud together through the upper primary years are huge. Reading aloud with your older child will:
1. Help build their vocabulary
A well-developed vocabulary is linked to better school performance. As a child listens and understands at a higher level than he's able to read independently (right up to high school age), reading aloud provides children with the chance to listen and engage with texts beyond their own reading level — and this is wonderfully constructive for vocabulary development.
2. Give you insight into their challenges
Books can invite conversation with kids around relevant social issues and challenges they might be facing. Choosing a book to read together that addresses a tricky topic — such as friendship issues, prejudice, bullying, or homelessness — offers an unmatched opportunity to talk together. You can better understand what your child thinks or has experienced around a given issue, as well as share your beliefs and personal stories on a sensitive subject.
3. Help them associate rest and relaxation with reading
Maintaining a habit of reading aloud together with your independent reader provides the continued chance for closeness with you. Plus, escaping into a great book can be a stress-reliever. Of course, choosing the right books is an essential part of a successful read-aloud.