Research: Reading to Your Children at Bedtime Helps Them Become Better Learners

Mom reading the book "mystery" by "author"

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made an official declaration: Read to your child every day, beginning at birth, and keep doing it.

The concept would have drawn snickers a generation ago, when the bedtime story was confined to the toddler years. Subsequent research has shown that reading to babies helps boost language development. Reading to older children also carries more benefits than previously thought.

Stimulating tiny brains

For babies, hearing the stories is a boon to verbal development. Singing and talking help in this area, too. The stimulation is thought to literally turn on brain cells, strengthening connections and helping new links form.

Other studies have looked at reading’s impact on vocabulary growth, which is a key factor in early academic learning. Simply put, the more words children hear, the faster their vocabularies grow. Studies have shown that children from low-income families have heard as many as 30 million fewer words than their better-off peers by age 4. That, in turn, puts them at a disadvantage once they enter school.

More recent research has used brain imaging to show that reading to children might have a biological impact. MRI scans have revealed that reading to preschoolers activates the portions of their brains that help with understanding narrative and mental imagery. Both areas are key for language development and learning.

Bear all this in mind if your child attends day care or preschool. Picking a quality program staffed by professionals educated in early childhood development can help your children reach their potential. Make sure there’s at least one daily story time.

Introducing advanced concepts

For older children, a benefit of read-aloud time is exposure to concepts they don’t quite have the reading comprehension levels to handle themselves. Experts say that children are capable of understanding content two grades up when it’s read to them. That means that you can, and should, pick more advanced materials for your nightly sessions.

Reading to older children also gives your family an opportunity for great discussions. For example, the book "Wonder," which is at a fifth-grade reading level but accessible to younger kids, is about a 10-year-old born with a genetic defect that left his face severely deformed. The book paves the way for a dialogue about accepting people who are different, as well as bullying and a range of other topics that otherwise can be difficult to tackle.

No matter the age of the child, reading together is a great way to bond and a relaxing ritual at the end of the day.


Written by Ashford University staff

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