Snuggling up on a cold winter night with your child and a pile of books is the perfect way to spend time together. You may think that you’re just enjoying your child’s company and they may just think they are being entertained, but there is alot more going on when you open a book and read aloud to your child.
New Canaan Pediatrics is here to explain five powerful things that happen when you read aloud to your child – at any age.
1) Sounds build words – and muscles
For infants and babies, hearing stories begins as hearing different sounds. Those sounds then evolve into hearing words as their understanding grows. Reading playful books introduces our babies to the joy of making sounds and then to speaking words themselves, which helps with enunciation and elocution. One of our favorite books here at New Canaan is “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” The reader plays with the sounds of a fish kiss, rain drops falling and even a hippo chewing gum. Encourage even the smallest children to imitate sounds, strengthening the muscles in their lips, tongue, cheeks and mouth.
2) Build vocabulary by reading
When you read aloud to your child, they hear new words within a context, giving them clues to the definition, teaching them the pronunciation, and showing them how to use the word in a sentence. When the meaning isn’t clear, it gives your child a chance to learn something new. You can discuss together why this word was chosen by the author and talk about alternative words and how that might change the meaning of the sentence or story. Understanding the difference between words such as “shocked”, “stunned” and “speechless” expands your child’s ability to express themselves accurately.
Studies show that when parents read multiple stories aloud to kids each day, children start kindergarten knowing about 1.4 million more words than kids who are not read to as often. That’s a powerful reason to start reading!
3) Reading builds empathy and problem solving skills
As you end each page, ask your child what they think will happen next and why. At any age and in every level of book, your child will learn quickly that stories and conversations can go in many different directions, with many “right” answers. Your child will understand the concepts of past, present and future. They will also build executive function skills like planning, memory, flexibility and inhibition control.
Because your child is thinking about situations and characters in a deeper way, they are also building empathy as they think through the characters’ circumstances, define the problems and consider all of the possible solutions. Studies show that kids who are read to are less aggressive and have fewer behavior problems, with the effects lasting for many years.
4) See the world through books
When a child enjoys a story about a character in a different circumstance, country or culture – even if it’s Mr. Toad – it gives you an opportunity to introduce them to so much more. Explore any new foods mentioned and your child will learn to follow instructions, make accurate measurements and taste new flavors. Play games or do activities mentioned in a book, even if it’s pretending to raft down the river or drive a new car. Use Google Maps to find book locations and take a peek at the pyramids of Egypt or the neighborhoods of London.
5) You and your child are building a strong, lasting connection
Whether you read together first thing in the morning, before a nap, when they arrive home from school, at bedtime or for hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon, reading aloud to your child helps you build a strong and connected relationship. As you talk about characters and emotions, your child will share theirs with you. You’ll be able to guide decisions and shape values as you talk about literary problems that need solving. But mostly, you’ll be developing a real love and respect for each other as you and your child read together.
If you have questions about reading to your child or your child’s language development, just message us through your patient portal. Your New Canaan provider will be happy to help!