Building good and healthy habits requires daily attention. One of the best habits you can instill in your children is reading! Stories allow children to explore their imagination and creativity. Books allow kids to understand and investigate their emotions. Often some stories can be relatable when kids don’t know how to express themselves. Unsurprisingly though, scientists have now discovered how reading to your kids can make them, not only smarter but also kinder.
Reading to Your Kids Could Be a Passion
According to a survey conducted in 2018, around only 30% of families reported reading to their kids every day for at least 15 minutes. While 11% of parents admit, they never read for fun. In contrast, 87% of parents admit to having loved reading as a child. So, where did the joy in this activity go?
Finding the Time
We all are leading busy lives, and we all face pressures to get things done on time. Dishes, laundry, meetings, dinner, extracurriculars, etc. There are so many things we must do in a day, and not enough time. As a result, we find it hard to take a few moments, or even an hour, to settle in and get cozy with a book.
While scientists do suggest the most benefit comes from reading to your kids for at least 15 minutes a day, this is not always possible. The good news is that reading to your kids can be done in 5-10 minutes when time is limited. There are so many children’s stories available it’s easy to find a short story that’s both fun and engaging.
Scientifically, Reading to Kids
A recent Italian study examined 32 elementary schools and 626 children. First, the students were given a test to see where they were developmentally. This test included things like comprehension, attention, and processing. They then broke the student into two groups, students who continued their normal daily tasks and students whose teachers read to them.
For that group, children were read age-appropriate fiction for one hour every day. A few months later the kids tested again. The results showed a dramatic difference in the kids who’d been read to daily. American Academy of Pediatrics Spokesperson Dr. Dipesh Navsaria weighed in on the results. “There is overwhelming evidence that reading to your child, with your child, every day for even a short period of time is incredibly beneficial to them, and probably also to the grown-up in different ways,” he said.
Other Fun Tasks
When reading to children, it’s important to keep them engaged. There are a few things you can do to ensure fun for everyone. According to Ashley Norris, asking follow-up questions about each page is a great way to do this, and to keep kids constantly thinking. For example, if there are balloons in the background, I may ask them to find the blue one or the biggest one. Another example for kids who are a little further in development may be to point out elements of the story that kids can relate to. Maybe the story is about a child who loves the same things they do.
Perhaps someone from the story has a similar hair color, style, or texture to your child or someone they love. This does sometimes prevent us from getting through the whole story, but it still provides similar bonding benefits, and simultaneously encourages brain development. Other benefits that can come from reading to your kids include giving them access to a wider vocabulary and helping them develop a longer attention span. They will gain access to more words and sounds as they learn to speak and recognize letters.
In going over letters and words, children’s brains develop more and stronger, Neural pathways. This development will also help to strengthen their attention span. Even for adults, it can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand. Children often have a shorter attention span than most adults. And it gets even shorter the younger they are. However, by spending a few minutes every day reading to your kids, they’ll learn to sit still for longer periods. They’ll learn to stay engaged for longer, and they’ll learn to focus on the same thing for longer periods.
So, we’ve covered intellect but what about kindness? According to Psychology Today, through reading to your kids they can learn traits of kindness like, compassion and empathy. Kids are given the opportunity to identify with the characters in the story. They gain exposure to a range of emotions and learn how to manage these emotions. They can also learn to treat others with kindness, they can learn to share, be gentle with their bodies, use their words and not hands etc.
Through the hustle and bustle of the day, kids can be left feeling unseen or unheard. The simple act of reading to your kids everyday can give them a sense of closeness to, and security in, you. It can help to fill their cup, so to speak. Kids still get some benefit from this quality time, even if it’s not long lasting. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find it challenging to meet the 15-minute mark every day. The main purpose of reading to your kids is to spend quality time together and help them build healthy habits.
- “Why reading aloud to kids helps them thrive.” PBS. May 15, 2018.
- “Reading the same books to your child over and over makes them smarter.” Motherly. March 1, 2022.