If you’re still thinking about New Year’s resolutions, here’s a good one: read with your children. It’s fun, it’s easy, and you might be surprised at the fact that it’s good for your kids’ health, too.
Reading affects adult health
Reading with your children improves their language development, helps them learn to love reading, and is the most important thing you can do to help them learn to read.
What does that have to do with health? Studies show that literacy among adults is strongly correlated with more positive health outcomes. Being able to read well makes it more likely that your child will grow up to have better educational experiences, better access to healthcare, and better health habits overall.
Time spent reading with your children now is a valuable investment in their future good health.
Reading with children even before they learn to talk encourages healthy brain development. Language development requires plenty of exposure to language. Ordinary conversation is important, but reading together can introduce kids to words they otherwise might not have heard. Books may also include language structures that don’t come up as often in ordinary speech. The combination of stories and pictures can encourage empathy, creativity, and other complex mental activity, too.
Children who read and are read to have larger vocabularies. They also develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and concentration. In fact, there are very few aspects of brain development that aren’t supported by reading.
How to read with your children
Making reading part of your family’s daily routine is a healthy choice. A bedtime story can be part of a good sleep routine. When your child is small enough, have them sit on your lap to read stories. As they get bigger, sit next to each other so they can continue to see the pictures in the book. This will help them understand the process of reading, including turning the pages and thinking ahead of the story.
Is your child more interested in chewing on the pages? Go with board books and relax about the book. Some children love to turn pages and even to interact with the book in surprising ways.
Your child may also want to hear the same book repeatedly. Think about setting a limit on the number of times you read the same book in one sitting if you need to — it’s important that you enjoy the reading process, too. However, repetition of a favorite story has benefits for language development. This is an area where compromise makes sense.
As your child gets older, take the opportunity to talk about the book. Make predictions about what will happen, remember and analyze events that took place earlier in the story, and share opinions about the characters’ decisions. Choose a new word from each day’s reading and play a game with it, finding opportunities to use it in your daily conversations.
Use an app like Storygraph or a list on your refrigerator to track the books you read. See how many books you can read together and enjoy looking back at the stories you’ve shared. Time spent together with books will become a favorite experience.