Mom smiling with her baby while looking at a book

How to Encourage Your Child to Read

Some of the best nurturing is done with a child snuggled up to you reading a favorite book. Parents, grandparents, family members and caretakers would be very wise to encourage and nurture their child’s love of reading. The benefits to the child are staggering in the impact upon that child’s educational and life success. According to Dana Gioia, Chairman of the NEA, poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement. Significantly worse reading skills are found among prisoners than in the general adult population. And deficient readers are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting….Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed.

It’s important to start early, too. A myriad of studies have shown that reading to a child in utero is beneficial, allows for bonding, and is reassuring and calming to a fetus. New research led by Patricia K. Kuhl, PhD., Bezos Family Foundation endowed chair in early childhood learning, and a professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle suggests that babies’ brains do not wait for birth to start absorbing information. Babies began to understand language when they are inside the womb during the last ten weeks of pregnancy. Newborns can tell the difference between their mother’s native tongue and foreign languages just hours after they are born.

Reading to a small child starts to foster interest and enthusiasm for stories that teach them about everyday tasks, plus many stories will ignite their curiosity and love of learning. Hearing the rhythm of language has a substantial impact on how they construct their words once they can speak. It also improves cognitive development.

Consider this citation from a study on toddlers’ cognitive development as a result of being read aloud to:

“A child care provider reads to a toddler. And in a matter of seconds, thousands of cells in these children’s growing brains respond. Some brain cells are ‘turned on,’ triggered by this particular experience. Many existing connections among brain cells are strengthened. At the same time, new brain cells are formed, adding a bit more definition and complexity to the intricate circuitry that will remain largely in place for the rest of these children’s lives.”

Therefore, the more adults read aloud to their children, the larger their vocabularies will grow and the more they will know and understand about the world and their place in it, assisting their cognitive development and perception.

Early reading experiences are recognized as being of such consequence that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “pediatricians prescribe reading activities along with other instructions given to parents at the time of well-child visits.” The President of the Academy, Dr. Robert E. Hannemann, stated: “We strongly recommend daily reading to children from six months of age.”  (Press Statement, American Academy of Pediatrics, April 16, 1997 (for additional information, American Academy of Pediatrics, Chicago, IL – 847-981-7131))

Teenagers should also be encouraged to read for fun on a daily basis. It assists them in carrying on conversations with adults, can reduce stress levels, and gain significant insights into mature relationships, personal values, cultural identity, physical safety and security, aesthetic preferences, and understanding of the physical world, all of which assist teen readers in the transition from childhood to adulthood.

How does one foster a child’s love for reading?

  1. Pick up a book and read to your child.
  2. Set aside a regular time for reading aloud with your children.
  3. Model the habit. Let them see you reading for fun as well as work or information gathering.
  4. Create a conducive environment by setting up a cozy reading nook.
  5. Encourage your reluctant reader to read easy picture books to their younger siblings.
  6. Have fun trips to the book store or library.
  7. Leave books prominently or casually around your home.
  8. Have an incentive plan in place that might be attractive, such as a financial reward for books read.
  9. Before traveling to new cities or countries try finding books of interest so that they know about the geography, foods, customs, etc.

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