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Bright Beginnings: The Benefits Of Early Reading

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“The more that you read, the more  things you will know. The  more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

~ Dr Suess

You must have heard that reading to children is pivotal for their cognitive development. You may, however, wonder what the benefits of reading to infants and toddlers are, since they do not really comprehend what is being read to them. 

Reading to young children is all about exposure. To learn any skill or receive any new information you need to be exposed to it. In the same vein, you start talking to infants to expose them to words and the environment around them; you sing your child lullabies even though they do not really understand the meaning behind them. In the same way, the benefits of early reading, as intangible as they may seem right now, have numerous benefits for children.

This article will try to address some of those benefits as well as give you some guidance on the types of books you should read to your child.


Benefits of Reading

Basic speech skills

Reading to children gives them a head start in learning vital sounds and enunciation skills. It exposes them to the basic sounds that will form the foundation of their basic speech skills. Soon you may notice your toddler perusing through books and squealing and babbling in delight and your preschooler might actually start sounding out words from books.

Communication skills

When you read to your child, you are supplying them with the tools to communicate in a constructive way. By hearing about interactions between the characters in books and by the contact they get with you during this reading time, they learn vital communication skills.

Basic reading skills

Reading to your children at an early age also teaches them how to read books. Children do not have the inherent knowledge about the direction in which text is read, or which way a book should be held, or that images and text are distinctive from each other. Early reading teaches them this very important pre-literacy skill.

Bonding experience

In this increasingly busy world, it is hard to spend as much time as you would like with your child so every moment counts. Reading to your children is a simple activity that allows you to get some quality time with them and nurturing that parent-child bond. As your child grows up and start developing other interests, makes close friends and get busy themselves, you may find it hard to get that quiet, cuddle time that you enjoyed with them when they were babies. Reading to your children, from an early age helps you recapture that time with them, even when they grow up, and also allows you to provide them with a loving, nurturing environment  (which has so many benefits for children– read our article on Big Love = Big Brain) at any age.

Critical  and logical thinking skills

Through reading stories, children get to experience new places, ideas, scenarios and get exposure to different perspectives, and character motivations. It encourages them to flex their critical thinking faculties through learning concepts such as cause and effect, responsibility, and conflict. Children can follow clues to logical conclusions and can learn to predict patterns and solve riddles. Exposure to all these concepts can really hone a child’s critical and problem-solving skills.

Better concentration

Reading encourages concentration and focus. Most toddlers and even older children tend to get distracted easily. Reading teaches children to be active listeners and gets them into the habit of  focusing their attention, leading to better concentration and listening skills.

Academic Brilliance

There is a ton of research that suggests that reading to toddlers and preschoolers increases their aptitude for learning in the future and builds a strong foundation for literacy development in the school years. This mainly stems from the fact that children, who are read to at an early age,  feel comfortable with words, sentence construction, and general reading comprehension early in life.

Language mastery

Children are like sponges – when we read aloud to them, they store information about language such as different words, sentences, grammar, and syntax. Although they might be too young to actively use this information, they store this information for use at a future date. Reading also helps provide a tremendous boost to children’s vocabulary.

Learning morals

Most good children’s stories have a moral behind them that teach lessons against greed,laziness, intolerance and about the virtues of kindness and hard work in an imaginative way providing a great foundation for learning morality at a young age.

Readers for life

Early reading encourages children to view reading as a fun, entertaining activity rather than a dull chore or homework you have to do to get by in school. Exposing children to reading, at an early age, will create more successful readers and promote a lifetime love of reading.


Types Of Books By Age

If you were not convinced before this article of the benefits of early reading to children, hopefully you are now. At this point, you may be thinking about what types of books you should be reading to your child – Tolstoy? Thomas Hardy? Here are a few suggestions about the types of books you should read to your little one by age:

 0 -6 Months

Newborns and young infants are drawn to simple books with large designs or pictures and bright colors. For this age group it is recommended that you get the following types of books:

  • Soft cloth books that can get washed easily
  • Stiff board books
  • Waterproof books, such as vinyl books, that can be taken into baby’s bathtub
  • Books with different textures or noises to explore
  • Books with pictures of familiar, everyday objects

 

6-12 Months 

As infants grow into toddlers they will progressively take more interest and will focus more on the stories you read to them. The books that work best for this age are the following:

  • Books with bright, clear illustrations of familiar objects
  • Books with rhyming text
  • Books with a simple and short storylines
  • Books with pictures of other babies
  • Books with flaps 
  • Peek-a-boo books
  • Textured books that baby can touch and explore
  • Sturdy board books that baby can flip through on their own (and taste)
  • Waterproof books for bath time

 

12-24 Months 

As your child grows into a toddler, he or she will start acquiring new words. At this point it is important to make reading a fun and enjoyable activity for them. It is also important to be repetitive with the books you read to your child (as tiring as it may get for you) as this will encourage ‘pretend reading’  and other important pre-literacy skills. At this stage the following types of books are recommended: 

  • Books with simple storylines and only a few  clear large words on each page
  • Books that have photos of children doing simple activities like playing, eating or sleeping, etc
  • Goodnight books for bedtime reading
  • Books that illustrate basic actions like hello and goodbye
  • Books with color and interesting illustrations
  • Books with rhyming text
  • Books that involve interaction such as singing or miming 
  • Books that are textured or ‘touch and feel’ books
  • Books with animal illustrations

 

24-36 Months 

As your toddler grows older and acquires more words in his or her repertoire, the following types of books are recommended:

  • Books with simple stories
  • More goodnight books for bedtime reading
  • Books with rhyming text
  • Books about with shapes, numbers and alphabets 
  • Books about animals, playtime
  • Pop-up books 
  • Textured or  ‘touch-and-feel’ books

3-5 Years (Preschoolers)

At this age, most children are in preschool and they start to have their opinions and develop a sense of humor. They will have their familiar characters and books that they grvitate to, but at this stage you can still expose them to a variety of books :

  • Books with noises
  • Books with simple, concise stories
  • Books with interesting, bright illustrations
  • Books which pick up on their interests (such as certain pets, trains, cooking, playing instruments, etc)
  • Books about going to school, the park, the doctor, etc
  • Books with simple rhymes that they can remember
  • Books about children and their lives
  • Concept books, such as those about counting, size or time 

 

Reading to your child  will not only help him or her acquire those important pre-literacy skills that will help their speech and language development, it will also fire up their imaginations and give them exposure to a constructive interest that will give them a lifetime of pleasure and benefit. 

Do come back to Bright Babyhood and check out our upcoming section on book recommendations for your bright little ones.

Photocredit: www. Flickr.com

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Contributed by saimaismail

Saima is the Editor-in-Chief, and co-founder of Bright Babyhood. She is a management consultant and a Columbia University alumni. She currently spends her days managing and writing for Bright Babyhood, and brainstorming ways to convince her toddler to eat. You can find her writings at www.BrightBabyhood.com.

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