Every parent expects his or her children to be happy and successful in school, work and life in general. Reading skills play an essential role in achieving the goal.
Why reading is so important and how can it support children for the future?
Ninety percent of brain development occurs between birth and age 5. The neural pathways are formed in sequence when the brain develops, starting from sensory pathways like vision and hearing which followed by language and higher cognitive function, according to Harvard University Center on the Developing Child1.
In the proliferation and pruning process, simpler neural connections form first, followed by more complex circuits. The timing is genetic, but early experiences determine whether the circuits are strong or weak.2
Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development, which helps build strong pathways in the brain and in turn builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that can have life-long health benefits3.
Cognition, or cognitive development, includes reasoning, memory, problem-solving, decision-making and thinking skills. Young children make sense of and organize their world with cognitive abilities, meanwhile they develop their cognitive abilities through exploring and testing the world around them.
Cognitive development can be influenced through the environment around the kids including pre-school, school and most significantly, family. The most effective period for cognitive skill investment by parents is early on in the life of their children4 (Cunha et al., 2006).
In addition, reading to children also stimulates them to read books themselves and further develop their cognitive skills5 (Canoy et al., 2006).
These cognitive skills and critical thinking skills are especially important when you consider that, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than one in three American children start kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read. About two-thirds of children can’t read proficiently by the end of the third grade.6
Through reading, young children explore the new world, question how things work, remember words and pictures in books, learn to solve problems in books and understand how decisions can make differences.
Reading books to young children encourage them to think actively.
Therefore, when adults read aloud their children, while growing their vocabularies, adults also help young children understand themselves and the world around them better, which supports their cognitive development and perception when they grow.
Daily reading to young children can help with language acquisition, literacy skills, communication skills and social skills. Reading to your children when their neural language pathways were forming in their infancy will stimulate the part of brain which helps them understand the meaning of language and helps build key language, literacy and social skills.
Research has found that reading storybooks to children is one of the most important activities for developing the knowledge required for eventual success in reading. Reading to pre-schoolers has been found to be related to language growth, emergent literacy and reading achievement7. (Bus et al., 1995).
A recent brain scan study found that “reading at home with children from an early age was strongly correlated with brain activation in areas connected with visual imagery and understanding the meaning of language” 8
A new research at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting also shows that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school.
Children learns language by imitation. The more language input that is provided, the better their output will be. Young children cannot use a word that they have not been exposed to. Reading to young children gradually expose them to huge vocabularies that may not be used during daily life in the family. Decoding of language only happens after the children experienced huge amount of language input.
Therefore, reading aloud to young children benefits on improving language skills.
Every academic success starts from reading. While young children’s find motor and gross motor are under development, learning by doing can be very limited. Early reading with your child allows your child to grow his/her vocabulary skills with exposure to new words and listening skills they develop from hearing someone read to them, and it helps your child to understand the world around him/her by presenting them informational contents, which in the end become vital to their academic success.
Children who learn to read earlier will start learning by reading earlier. This is important not only because they start to learn earlier and faster, but because they cultivate a great habit of learning through reading, which will benefit them throughout their whole life.
It is deniable that one-on-one reading to your young child on a regular basis can help you forge a stronger relationship with them. Reading to your child provides a great opportunity to understand your child and to express your feelings towards your child through books. The bond built-up through shared reading provides a child with trust, safety and intimacy, which support their mental health when they grow up.
Discussing real-life experiences and issues with your child when reading together can be more effective than lecturing. Reading together can be helpful to shape your child’s value towards people and this world.
At its core, literature is one of the best ways to help kids understand something without necessarily having to experience it for themselves. Reading to your child helps to expose them to all types of subjects and concepts, building our children’s understanding of humanity and the world around them.
Concentration and discipline are crucial for kids during their learning journey which can be strengthened by introducing routine reading time into your child’s schedule.
Getting young children to focus with a specific task can be difficult, but once a routine is set up, young children tend to strongly follow the routine. Instead of squirming all around, they will tend to sit still and listen to a story when the certain time comes for the read aloud.
They will pull their attentions onto a book and their attention span will be gradually trained through the duration of the book.
Tanner Christensen once said “Imagination is about seeing the impossible, or unreal. Creativity is using imagination to unleash the potential of existing ideas in order to create new and valuable ones. Innovation is taking existing, reliable systems and ideas and improving them.”9
Young children don’t imagine or create out of nothing. Reading to your child help them explore the possible and real world, together with the impossible or unreal world provided by creative authors. Children start to dream big according to what they learn. The more they learn, the wider imagination spreads.
Creativity comes with problem solving. While children read different books and find different opinions on the same topic, they develop the ability of critical thinking. With the power of critical thinking and problem solving, they dream to change the world with their creativity.
Therefore, reading skills play an essential role in improving a child’s imagination and creativity.
Lifelong pursuit of learning ensures a child’s success.
Reading with an open mind is the key for lifelong learning. Avid readers absorb knowledge like sponges.
When a caregiver reads to a child regularly, the one-on-one intimacy connects “pleasure” with reading. The child will carry the “pleasure” feeling into future independent reading experience and enjoy the lifelong pursuit of learning.
As you can see, reading to your child can make huge difference in his or her life. Don’t’ worry if you haven’t started yet. Better late than never. It’s never too late to start reading to young children.
Let’s work together!