There are so many benefits of reading for children!
There is widespread scientific agreement that reading with and encouraging your children to read is beneficial.
Learning to read is a key milestone in the development of a child which lays a solid foundation for a child’s academic success to be built upon.
Reading can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Who doesn’t love cuddling up with their child and living a story together, reciting poems or teaching them about the world they live in?
There are many proven benefits of reading for children and I’m going to have a look at the research behind some of them and find out why we should be encouraging our children to love reading from an early age.
This post is about encouraging children to develop a love of books and reading and the benefits that that love can bring.
Remember though, children need to play and we shouldn’t be forcing them to learn to read if they don’t want to or are not ready for it.
We always want children to have positive associations with reading (this is why I really disagree with reading as a punishment in schools).
Hopefully, by reading lots to them from an early age, you’ll encourage loads of enthusiasm for reading and your child will want to be able to learn to read books all by themselves.
Anyway, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of reading:
What are the Benefits of Reading For Children?
Benefits of Reading for Children – It can Increase Vocabulary
This makes sense, the more a child is surrounded by and submerged in stories and words the more they are likely to pick up and remember.
This seems to be especially true if they participate in active reading where they can ask questions and new words are explained to them. The earlier they start the more they will learn!
One study in New Zealand, looked at 3 classes of 8 year old children. The children were tested for vocabulary before and after having a story read to them.
In one story telling they were passive listeners and vocabulary gains of 15% were recorded. In another, the teacher explained words to them and the children could ask questions and their increase in vocabulary was 40%.
Another study looked at children who were around 13 months behind their peers in terms of vocabulary. It found that when these children were placed into interventions which encouraged them to actively participate in book-readings, they made significantly large gains in their vocabulary.
The amount a child reads is also thought to improve their vocabulary due to the difference between the types of words used in books and in the spoken language.
When adults talk to children they often simplify the words they use so reading lots of books can expose them to words they wouldn’t normally come across in conversation.
Reading Can Make Children Better Writers
It’s thought that we learn most about language subconsciously and passively, not as you might expect through doing. Therefore, just because a child writes lots does not mean they will suddenly get better at writing.
Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California, wrote that writing style is learnt from reading. He also suggests that every good writer has done a great deal of reading and from this has acquired “the code – the language of writing” which allows them to be able to write well.
Reading helps children learn how writing should ‘feel’ when being read, and will help them to learn grammar rules as well.
It can also help children to find inspiration for their writing and increase their understanding of different types of books and genres.
Benefits of Reading for Children – It Can Increase Their Knowledge
Reading has been shown to be one of the best ways to acquire knowledge and avid readers have been shown to have greater general knowledge than those who only read occasionally.
It has been estimated that an avid reader of middle-school age may read around 10,000,000 words in year. That’s a lot of words and a lot of potential knowledge being absorbed!
On the flip side, poorer readers have been found to read less and as such are exposed to less information. These poorer readers also found the texts harder to understand. This is one more reason why it’s important to try and raise skilled and confident readers.
It Can Have a Big Impact on School Life
I know from my time working in schools how important reading is to a child’s success in school.
Children that come into Kindergarten /Reception enjoying books and knowing some of the basic letter sounds generally perform better across all areas. They have a super foundation upon which the teachers can build.
Almost all of these children receive a great amount of support from their parents and carers and are encouraged to read and enjoy books at home from a young age.
As a result these children generally have more confidence as they are able to correctly answer questions and participate more actively in the learning and this filters through to other subjects as well.
As they get older their reading skills can be used to help them to learn and understand more across all subject areas.
Reading for Enjoyment Can be a Great Way to Relax
At the end of a long day I can think of few better ways to relax than reading a brilliant book.
Reading can transport you to extraordinary worlds; you can hold hands as you walk with your favourite characters and experience their adventures in a way no other medium can offer.
As well as the pleasure these journeys can bring reading has actually been found to reduce cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone). It is also an effective way to reduce mood disturbances caused by mental or emotional stressors.
Reading for pleasure has also been shown to improve self confidence as a reader and make you feel better about yourself.
And that if you start reading for pleasure when you are young it should turn into a lifelong love of reading.
Reading Together for Bonding
Reading can also be a great way to bond with your child. Sharing a book is such a special piece of one-to-one time.
I love reading to our little one and he loves it too. We try to share at least one book with him every day.
When he has lots of energy in the daytime we’ll often look at picture books and I’ll point out animals to him and try to get him to make animal noises (it’s pretty darn cute – cow’s the best!).
Now if I ask him if we wants a story, he grabs the first book he can find then backs into me, waiting for me to pick him up and start reading.
Reading a story at night has also become part of his bedtime routine. I find it a great way to relax him before sleep.
Mem Fox, the author of the lovely picture book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (if you haven’t read it you should – it’s makes a great shared reading experience), explains how reading is a brilliant way for parents to get to know their children and vice versa.
And a study which focused on reading at home, and included how often shared book reading occurred and the way parents read to their children, found that support at home was one of the strongest contributors to children’s language and early literacy skills.
Benefits of Reading For Children – It Can Improve Comprehension Skills
It has been shown that reading can improve cognitive functions such as processing speed and problem solving.
In What Reading Does for the Mind, Cunningham and Stanovich explain that children who lack early exposure to books and reading practise have slower word recognition processes.
These word recognition processes take up some of the child’s mental resources that should be used for comprehension.
This leads to the children spending more time focusing on how to decode and less on thinking about what they are actually reading.
If they can learn to read early then more of their brain power will be freed for the actual understanding of what they are reading.
It has also be found that there is a link between the amount children read and their comprehension. Children that read lots are better at understanding what they are reading and applying the knowledge they have gained.
Reading For Health
As well as reducing stress levels as previously mentioned, reading increases blood flow to the brain.
Research has also shown that reading regularly from childhood through to old age can protect against memory decline and dementia.
Other research has found that intellectual activities such as reading may help to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reading Ability is a Predictor of Future Success
Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has shown that reading ability is more important to children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.
Reading ability has also been found to have long term links to individual earning potential and general productivity.
In one study, children were tested for reading and mathematical ability at the age of 7. These children were then revisited as 42 year old adults to look at their socioeconomic status.
It was found that there was a significant link between the children that had performed well in reading and maths at 7 and their success as adults.
Their reading ability was found to be a better predictor for future success than their socioeconomic status at birth.
So teaching them to be avid, confident readers as children could mean they stand a better chance at being successful adults.
Let’s Not Forget – Reading Can Be Free (or at least very cheap)
Hopefully everyone has a local library near them. Unfortunately, I know lots are closing down, but there are still plenty out there.
They are great places where you can read about almost any subject you can imagine. They often also have an area specifically designed with children in mind. These can contain lots of comfy chairs and beanbags and loads of children’s books to choose from.
If you don’t have a local library many offer services where you can borrow their books in pdf form. Not quite the same but an option nonetheless.
A way to get loads of cheap used books are from charity shops or goodwill.
We’ve got a St. Lukes near us which just does books. It’s only small but we’ve picked up loads of great titles for our little one. As an added benefit the money goes to help someone, win-win!
Well, I hope I’ve been successful in sharing with you why it’s so important to encourage a love for books from an early age. There are so many ways that reading aids their health and development. It’s also just a lovely way to spend some time together.
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Let’s nurture those neurons!
References and Further ReadingClick here for references
- A book reading intervention with preschool children who have limited vocabularies: the benefits of regular reading and dialogic reading
- Content coverage and contextual reading in reading groups
- Early Warning! Why reading by the end of the third grade matters
- Efficacy of Tai Chi, brisk walking, meditation, and reading in reducing mental and emotional stress
- Enduring links from childhood mathematics and reading achievement to adult socioeconomic status.
- Engaged Reading: Processes, Practices, and Policy Implications
- How many words are there in printed school English?
- Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging.
- On Being Literate
- On the Efficacy of Reading to Preschoolers
- Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members
- Predicting growth in reading ability from children’s exposure to print
- Principles and practice in second language acquisition
- Reading and solving arithmetic problems improves cognitive functions of normal aged people: a randomized controlled study
- Reading for change : performance and engagement across countries : results of PISA 2000
- Relation Between Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary, Reading Pleasure, and Reading Frequency
- The culture of education
- The Role of Home Literacy Practices in Preschool Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Skills
- Vocabulary acquisition from listening to stories
- Vocabulary simplification for children: a special case of ‘motherese’?
- We learn to write by reading, but writing can make you smarter?
- What Reading Does for the Mind
- Where Does Knowledge Come From? Specific Associations Between Print Exposure and Information Acquisition