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When and why should I read books to my child?

 In Ask an Expert, Health Tips, Pediatrics, Pulse Blog

Q: I know reading aloud is important, but at what age should I start reading books to my child and what does it actually do?

Start reading today! It doesn’t matter if you have a newborn, infant, preschooler, or school-age child who can read by themselves, children of every age benefit from a caregiver reading aloud.

We use ten times more vocabulary during reading than we do in everyday speech. Children who are read to for 20 minutes per day starting at 6 months of age have a six-month advantage in language skills by age 2 compared with children who were not read to regularly. Better language skills lead to better communication skills and less frustration for toddlers.

Infants who are read to regularly enjoy a multimillion-word advantage in language by the time they enter kindergarten. And while it is normal for children to learn to read anytime between ages 4 and 8, learning to read is much easier if you have heard the words before you need to sound them out. When kids feel confident in their ability to learn, they are more enthusiastic about school.

Reading to older children is similarly important because it encourages healthy parent-child interactions, improves literacy comprehension, and develops reasoning skills. Reading fiction from a variety of cultures and perspectives helps children learn to see the world from different points of view and cultivates empathy skills.

Finally, but most importantly, reading to your child is associated with cuddling, enjoyment, and positive social interactions, all of which can lead to better sleep, lower anxiety, and greater overall well-being.

Visit your local library for help with age-appropriate book selections. Talk to your pediatrician or pediatric provider about developmental skills associated with books and reading if you need additional information.

Dr. Devon Ebbing, pediatrician at Vancouver Clinic

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