Reading to your child is one of the best ways to spend quality time with them. Reading to your child at bedtime is not a new idea. This has been in practice for years and has often been seen as a recreational and relaxing activity to let the children fall asleep sooner.
Little do we know about the various benefits of reading stories at bedtime which have scientific rationale and reasons behind them! And perhaps because we do not know of the benefits, we tend to read stories to children below 3 more regularly and slowly reduce the habit to null once the child attains an age to read by himself/herself.
Studies and surveys have shown that the habit of reading stories to children especially at bedtime not only has a soothing effect on them along with other developmental skills in the early stages but also in the later stages of growth; pre-schooling and early schooling.
If you are wondering when should you start reading to your child, you should first read my post, ‘What is the Right Age to Start Reading to Babies?’
The Benefits of Reading to Your Child
G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., chief of the child development and behavior branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD says, “Neural research shows that when parents and caregivers interact verbally with children—which includes reading to them—kids learn a great deal more than we ever thought possible.” Here are a few reasons why reading stories at bedtime is wonderful!
With much of visuals being served up by television, iPads and other sources of video and media, very few opportunities are left with your child to tap his own imagination. Reading allows your child to visualize the words and the situation giving him enough time and space to picture things in his mind.
It not only enhances curiosity but also encourages imagination. Ask your child how he thinks a story would end. It does not have to match the story being penned down in the book you are holding. A few months of reading stories at bedtime and you can see how your little one comes up with his own ending to the story.
This means, not just he is enjoying the story and imagining the ending, but you can also get a glimpse of this future personality and attitude from the merit of his narration. So you see! Reading bedtime stories can help you a great deal with parenting.
Improves and Enhances Vocabulary
We do use voice modulation and stress on words to create the effect and impart the emotion attached to the word while we read to the children, there is no new concept in this. You might have noticed how kids sing along with you and use various words at a later point of time from what they have heard over during the storytelling sessions.
If you see that happening with your child, then you know you are doing it right. The habit of reading to your child at bedtime not just enhances your child’s vocabulary, but also prepares them for the future years at school by making them adapt to learning and retaining.
Increases Parent-Child Bonding
One of the prime reasons why we start reading to our child during bedtime is to spend some time with them away from the noisy world outside so that your little one falls asleep peacefully. Reading bedtime stories has more than that to offer.
It increases your bond with your child, allows time to snuggle and share experiences. Reading aloud stories to your child at night allows a chance to converse with your child which might not have been possible otherwise.
Cultivates a Knack for Reading and Writing
This benefit needs no special justification! With an enhanced vocabulary, a budding imagination power coupled with the habit of enjoying classics cultivates the knack for reading and writing both.
Sets a habit
It is always good to have at least one hobby to brighten up your leisure! And the habit of reading sets a great example of a hobby. One must have heard the phrase often used for people we admire- ‘A well-read person’. Reading is no more considered a boring hobby to take up. Rather a work of fiction exposes you to reality and human emotions more than non-fiction work.
Provide Educational Opportunity
It is often believed that kids love books with colors and patterns, something to touch that could stimulate their sensory organs or books with simple stories. As your child grows up, fairy tales may not interest her as much as a story inspired by history.
We are presently reading the “Amma Tell Me About” series to Little Miss A. Reading the Krishna Trilogy and the Hanuman one is her favorite though she likes the others too. Sometimes she picks up books on Human Body or a book like the Tiny Seed. All these books introduce concepts and mythology to her.
According to an article in the Scientific American, researchers at the New School in New York City “found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.”
The article further argues that literary fiction can “support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.” Emotional intelligence goes a long way in defining one’s personality, sense of empathy and overall success in life.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The WebMD Stress in Children Consumer Survey included 432 parents of children ages 5 to 13. The responses were collected from June 1 to July 31, 2015. The results of the survey indicated ‘Nearly 1 in 5 parents surveyed rated their own stress levels at a maximum “10 out of 10,” and more than half (57%) said their stress was at 7 or higher. But they considered their children to be under very little stress: 60% of parents rated their kids’ stress at 4 or below.’
Reading stories to children relieves the children from anxiety and builds a bond with the parent. A relaxed state of mind before going to bed or the parent-child bond helps the child in many ways to open up and share their trouble with the parent and thus, leading to lower levels of stress and healthy growth of mind and body.
Exercises the Brain
When compared to watching TV, reading is a more complex task for the human mind. Thus, reading to your child is a great form of exercise for his brains. Learning programs like the right brain development, focus on speed reading and other concepts as this stimulates the brain.
Have you heard of Right Brain Development? If not head to my post, Know Why Right Brain Activities are Important for Your Child to know more.
Anyone reading has to sit still for a period of time and this not only calms them down but also ensures they focus on their book. Little Miss A otherwise does not have a long concentration span as of now, but I have noticed she can sit calmly and listen to us read to her and not move and she is so focused on her story that if you skip a page she quickly points out.
Tips for Reading To Your Child
- Do not just stick to colored illustrated pages. School-goers have the capacity to listen and understand complex stories too.
- Modulate your voice and stress on the emotions attached to every word. In this way, your child understands not just the word, but also the emotions.
- Allow your child to participate, ask questions, make her assumptions on the story and repeat after you.
- It is not mandatory for a parent to read a new story to the child every day. Repeat the story. Children learn from repetition. Little Miss A though cannot read but she still knows many sentences in most of the stories she reads.
- Stress on the words that need exaggeration on the pronunciation. Sounds like ‘oo’ stimulate the part of the baby’s brain which processes language.
- Cut out all other distractions. Do not rush the process. Take it slow and create that atmosphere of affection while you read.
Reading to your child is one of the best things you can do for their overall development. Kids learn a lot from their books and also have a friend for life. Little Miss A reads three books daily for sure at night and it is a like habit for her. It seldom happens that she will sleep without reading. It calms her down and also enjoys this time with us. We have recently introduced her to Hindi books and she is enjoying learning new words. As parents, we all must try and take some time and read to the child. A few minutes will not cost us a lot but it will be the best thing for your child. As Jacqueline Kennedy said,
“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of them all”