Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Importance of Reading to Young Children

We started reading to Little Miss the day we got home from the hospital. I read to her everyday and although it didn't seem to make a difference at first I soon noticed she was paying close attention. She has always loved to read and now she asks to sit on the potty just so we'll read to her for a long period of time. We read multiple times a day.

Laughing at Jack falling down the hill - her favorite book at 3 months, Jack & Jill.

Little Miss started talking at 10 months and has always had off the chart verbal skills. I attribute it mostly to the fact that we read to her from a very young age. I even read aloud when I was pregnant just so she could get used to my voice.

So happy daddy is reading to her while she sits on her potty.

Her latest thing - she is memorizing her favorite books. She's not even two yet! I turn the page and she can say the words almost exactly...she even sings her alphabet! Not perfect all the time, but she understands that letters make up words.

Every gift-giving holiday Little Miss gets at least one new book. Books make great presents!

We all know reading to young children is important - but how important? I love facts. I love data. I love research. So here's the proof...

17 Reasons to Read Aloud to Our Children

  1. Gives children information on a variety of topics
  2. Promotes language development and literacy skills
  3. Raises reading levels
  4. Helps increase attention spans
  5. Promotes family relationships
  6. Build a lifelong interest in reading. "Getting kids actively involved in the process of reading, and having them interact with adults, is key to a lifelong interest in reading," said BeAnn Younker, principal at Battle Ground Middle School in Indiana.
  7. Children whose parents read to them tend to become better readers and perform better in school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  8. Reading to kids helps them with language and speech development.
  9. It expands kids' vocabulary and teaches children how to pronounce new words.
  10. Reading to toddlers prepares them for school, during which they will need to listen to what is being said to them (similar to what they do while being read to).
  11. Reading to older kids helps them understand grammar and correct sentence structure.
  12. Kids and parents can use reading time as bonding time. It's an excellent opportunity for one-on-one communication, and it gives kids the attention they crave.
  13. Being read to builds children's attention spans and helps them hone their listening skills.
  14. Curiosity, creativity and imagination are all developed while being read to.
  15. Being read to helps kids learn how to express themselves clearly and confidently.
  16. Kids learn appropriate behavior when they're read to, and are exposed to new situations, making them more prepared when they encounter these situations in real life.
  17. When read to, children are able to experience the rhythm and melody of language even before they can understand the spoken or printed word.
And if you want even more information...
  • Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3-4 times more likely to drop out in later years. - U.S. Dept of Education Survey
  • In 1999, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line. - Natl Center for Education Statistics
  • Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. - Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988
  • Students who reported having all four types of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias) in their home scored, on average, higher than those who reporter having fewer reading materials. - Natl. Center for Education Statistics
  • First grade children with good word recognition skills were exposed to almost twice as many words (as young) readers as were children who had poor word recognition skills. - Juel, 1988
  • Reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading. - National Academy of Education's Commission on Reading (1985)
  • Children's comprehensive, conceptual and behavioral patterns are primarily shaped between the ages of birth to five years. It is especially important for families and child caregivers to read to children early and often. - Essa, E. Introduction to Early Childhood Education (2nd ed.). Albany, NY: Delmar.
  • While a variety of experiences contribute to the preschool child's emerging literacy, there is overwhelming consensus among researchers that exposure to children's books is particularly important. - Anderson, AB, Stokes, SJ. Social and institutional influences and the development and practive of literacy. In: Goleman H, Oberg A, Smith F, eds. Awakening to Literacy. Exeter, NH: Heinemann: 1984:23.
  • By reading to infants, parents can help their children develop an understanding about print at an early age as infants learn to make connections between words and meaning. By engaging children at an early age in reading and allowing children to observe those around them in reading activities, parents can help foster a lifelong passion for reading that leads to benefits in all areas of development as children grow older. - National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1997). Helping Children Learn About Reading. (Online). Available: [1997, September 25].
  • For infants and toddlers as well as preschool children, books provide a context for language and cognitive developments related to literacy acquistion and school success. Rhythmic speaking and holding enhance infant attention. - Brown, DR, Ottinger CD. The Perceptual Basis of Developing Reading Skill: Final Report. Washington DC: Office of Education, Bureau of Research; 1970. US Department of Health, Education and Welfare publication RMQ66004.
  • Reading to children is one of the best ways to promote positive attitudes toward reading and to give children the sounds and words of literacy and reading. Beginning at birth, all children should be read to with regularity and enthusiasm. - Southern Early Childhood Association (2002) Early Literacy and Beginning to Read: A Position Statement of the Southern Early Childhood Association. Southern Early Childhood Association: Dimensions of Early Childhood, 30(4), 28-31.
  • Reading aloud to young children helps to develop vocabulary, phonological awareness, oral language skills, fluency, and a positive attitude toward learning. - Barrentine, S.J. Engaging with reading through interactive read-alouds. The Reading Teacher, 50(1), 36-43.
  • Reading aloud to children is one of the most effective and inexpensive activities parents, caregivers and educators can do to promote literacy. Children who are introduced to books early and read to on a regular basis do better in school. - Herb, S. (1997) Building Blocks for literacy: What current research shows. School Library Journal, 43(7), 23.
  • In a study conducted of kindergartners, those who were read to at least three times a week as they entered kindergarten were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent of literacy tests than children who were read to less than three times a week. - National Institute for Literacy (2006). The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Available online.
  • Children who are read to frequently are nearly twice as likely as other children to show three or more skills associated with emerging literacy. - Nord, C.W., Lennon, J., Liu, B., Chandler, K. (1999). Home Literacy Activities: Signs of Children’s Emerging Literacy: 1993 and 1999. (From the National Center for Family Literacy, 2005.)
  • Children in poor families are less likely to be read to daily. A U.S. Department of Education Survey found that 46 percent of children in families in poverty were read to every day, compared with 61 percent of children in families living above the poverty line. - U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics (1996). National Household Education Study, 1995. Washington DC: Author.
  • Children from low income families enter school at a disadvantage. The gap between children from low- and high-income families on reading comprehension scores is more than 40 points. - National Center for Education Statistics (1993) The Condition of Education. Washington DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Some experts believe that for America's poorest children, the biggest obstacle to literacy is the scarcity of books and appropriate reading material. - Needlman R, Fried L, Morley D, Traylor S, Zuckerman B. Clinic-Based Intervention to Promote Literacy. American Medical Association American Journal of Diseases of Children; 145(881) 1991.
  • A team of researchers concluded that nearly two-thirds of the low income families they studied owned no books for their children. As a result, direct access to books is extremely limited for these children, a fact that significantly impacts their educational growth and development as well as their sense of creativity and imagination. - McQuillan, Jeff. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions. 1998.
  • The problems continue as people with low literacy levels enter adulthood. Among adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency, 43% live in poverty. Among adults with strong literacy skills, only 4% live in poverty. - The State of Literacy In America, 1998.
So go pick up a book and read to your child!! Turn off the TV and read. Let them see you reading for pleasure. Can't afford to buy a ton of books? Go to the library! Don't like reading? Find something you like to read - magazines, newspaper - and read that!

Little Miss watching daddy read at 1 month - she was helping hold the book up I think...

You should be reading to your child at least 30 minutes a day, providing lots of opportunity for your child to ask questions. If neither of you can handle that chunk of time in one sitting - break it up into smaller time periods throughout the day, then slowly work up to a longer time - this will help your child develop patience and the ability to sit still, which they'll need for school.

What is your child's favorite book? Or your favorite book to read to your child?


  1. We didn't start reading to Ryan until he was about 7-8 months old. I thought he didn't care for it when he was younger, but I think it was the books I was reading. He just wasn't interested! Next time I'll do more of a variety. Ryan loves a Kissaroo book that I read to him before bed time. He used to love Winnie the Pooh Easter, until he ripped off the tabs! :)

  2. Whenever one of my students is struggling to read, the question we ALWAYS ask is "do you read to your child? Do you read with your child" It is so important!

  3. Really impressive literature reference list. For home educators, students and researchers: I have put one of the most comprehensive link lists for hundreds of thousands of statistical sources and indicators (economics, demographics, health etc.) on my blog: Statistics Reference List. And what I find most fascinating is how data can be visualised nowadays with the graphical computing power of modern PCs, as in many of the dozens of examples in these Data Visualisation References. If you miss anything that I might be able to find for you or if you yourself want to share a resource, please leave a comment.


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