Reading with your child can be a wonderful way to spend quality time with your child while providing a major developmental boost. According to the University of Melbourne, children whose parents read to them every day are developmentally a year ahead in comparison to children whose parents did not read to them. Researchers also found children who are read to at least three times a week become better readers themselves and have improved math skills. The study followed 4,000 children for six years, beginning at the age of 4 or 5.
Other studies have found that reading to babies and infants is important for developing language and vocabulary skills. This is important because the period from birth to 3 years old is a crucial time for language development, and the boost your child receives from being read to can eventually help make transition into school easier. Reading to your child enhances their imagination, their ability to process feelings, and their relationship with their caregivers. Reading books about particular subjects can facilitate difficult conversations with your child.
The benefits of reading are so profound that even houses with access to books confer a developmental advantage on children. Research has shown that children with books in the home—regardless of the education or socioeconomic status of the parents—tend to achieve 3.2 years more education than children without ready access to books. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this educational advantage can translate into a significant difference in lifetime earnings. On the contrary, the U.S.Department of Education states that 85 percent of juvenile offenders have reading problems, and 70 percent of adult inmates are functionally illiterate.
Your local library, bookstore, school, or even doctor’s office can help provide recommendations for age-appropriate reading material. It should be noted, however, that these studies have shown the benefits of reading printed books, not computer, tablets or e-readers. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children under the age of 18 months should have no screen time, with the exception of video chatting with familiar faces and family. After that, they should be limited to 1 hour per day, with supervision. Also, the AAP found that electronic books (ebooks) can interfere with learning for children ages 3 to 5 years old. In general, parents are encouraged to stick with printed material or limited access to educational programming.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
- The most intense period of language development in children is from birth to age 3.
- Children who are read to become better readers themselves.
- Children with plenty of books at home achieve, on average, 3.2 years of higher education than children who do not have books in their homes.
- Higher education typically results in higher earnings as an adult.