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Five reasons why you should read to your kids every night

Jennifer Michelle Lyons, MD

Time spent sharing stories is about far more than what adventure Elephant and Piggie are on today. When you read aloud to your child you help them leap ahead socially and emotionally. Here are five ways reading benefits kids:

  1. Stronger family relationships. When you snuggle up with your child for story time you increase closeness, provide comfort, and reduce anxiety. Being physically present and giving kids undivided attention helps children feel loved and cared for.
  2. Increased empathy and kindness. Reading fiction or non-fiction stories about people from different parts of the world helps children experience new cultures and different points of view. They can also see how other children manage difficult situations and apply those skills in their own lives.
  3. Greater attention span. Listening quietly and paying attention are important skills for school. The more children practice them, the more prepared they’ll be for the classroom.
  4. Bigger vocabulary. Books use a much wider vocabulary and more exacting grammatical structure than we use in everyday speech. Toddlers who have more words available to describe how they’re feeling are better able to manage their emotions. Children who are read to enter kindergarten with a multimillion-word advantage and have an easier time learning how to read. It’s simpler to sound words out when you’ve heard them before.
  5. Love of learning. When children enter school enjoying reading and possessing some early literacy skills, they are more excited to learn—and more successful at it. The more successful they are, the more they are motivated to learn. This love of learning keeps building.

It’s never too early to start reading to your children. Even 6-month-olds get excited by a new book. They love exploring how it feels, practicing turning the pages, and checking out the bright shapes and colors. Of course, you want to watch them to make sure they don’t gum the book too much.

I recommend reading 20 to 30 minutes a night with your child. A baby might make it for only a page or two, and some nights you may only have 10 minutes. Just make the most of the time you have. Consistency is key.

Also, I suggest taking time to read to older children. Most kids enjoy being read to far longer than parents think. What’s more, reading creates a great opportunity to discuss important or complex subjects. While some kids do fine tackling scary books like the Harry Potter series on their own, many others benefit from being able to talk about the content.

For ideas for great books for every age, talk to your local librarian. If you have questions about how reading to your child can support healthy brain development, talk to your pediatrician.

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Dr. Jennifer Lyons is a pediatrician at The Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys partnering with families to promote their children’s overall health and well-being.