The Importance of Reading to Young Children

In a “past life,” I managed a childhood literacy program at a children’s hospital on the west coast. I purchased and facilitated the distribution of books to children, recruited volunteers to read to children, hosted literacy fairs and maintained grant funding.

I didn’t have children at the time but one of the things I learned was the importance of reading to children at an early age. Reading aloud to babies stimulates language development, expands vocabulary, builds curiosity and memory and much more.

Research shows parents play an integral role in the development of their child’s early literacy skills. I read with Baby Girl and Baby Sis as often as I can. I especially enjoy spending one-on-one time with Baby Sis on Saturday and Sunday mornings reading books together. At 11 months, she’s in what I call the parrot stage. She likes to repeat what I say to her. She has a pretty good grasp on mum mum, dada and uh oh.

In addition to reading, I talk to her like she understands what I’m saying. I’m sure people look at me like I’m nutty when they see me having a conversation with a baby in a stroller but I’m laying the foundation of her communication skills so I don’t mind. Plus, it worked with the older one. She speaks really well, if I do say so myself.

Just before Christmas, a study in JAMA Pediatrics suggested electronic toys that light up, talk or play music might slow language development. Researchers found parents spoke less while their children played with electronic toys and babies were less vocal. In contrast, books produced the most verbal exchanges between parents and babies.

The study was a very small one but it raises the point that new isn’t always better. I admit we have a bunch of toys that light up, talk and play music but we are sure to balance things out with regular conversation, reading and trips to the library.

Looking for tips on reading with children? Check out your local library. Also, Reach Out and Read and Reading Is Fundamental offer resources and ideas for families.

Serena SmithSerena Smith is a senior marketing communications specialist at ProMedica. Click here to read more posts from Serena’s monthly series, Working Mommyhood