Let’s be honest; we’re pretty sure we know the importance of reading to our children. We all want to be that mom who sits on the sofa happily enjoying children’s literature with our kids. But today’s to do list never seems to have “read to my child” on the top line. We have great intentions, but we don’t get to it as much as we know we should.
The Importance of Reading to Our Children
One of my regrets is that I didn’t read to my older children more frequently. I was busy and tired and pregnant for pretty much an entire decade. My husband and I usually shared the responsibility for reading a Bible story at bedtime, but many rich reading opportunities escaped me during the day.
My two older daughters ended up struggling as they learned to read later in school. I felt guilty for this.
When I returned to college in my 30’s and becoming a teacher, I learned that many low-income families struggle to keep a daily reading schedule with their kids.
Statistically, our income and education levels correlate with the amount of time spent reading to our children. Lower income and education level = less time reading to kids. Higher income and education level = more time reading to kids.
And so the socio-economic status of this generation becomes the socio-economic status of the next generation.
Ugh! Statistics! They’re heartless!
Our financial and educational situation doesn’t have to determine our child’s outcome. To make a big change in the future we simply have to make small changes in the present – consistently.
Carving time out of our busy schedule to read to our children is worth the struggle when we truly know the importance of reading to our children and how it can change our family’s destiny.
In case you’re a mom who, like me, struggles to catch those extra reading opportunities during the day, here are four reasons you need to put family reading time on the top of your To Do list.
1. Reading to our children feeds them brain food.
Studies show that reading to your child for 30 minutes a day beginning when they are babies will provide 900 hours of reading support by the time they reach age five!
In contrast, reading for only 30 minutes in an entire week from infancy to age five provides only 130 hours of reading support. (U.S. Department of Education)
Sadly, there are some kids who get even less than that. There aren’t enough hours in the school day to recoup all the lost hours of reading support from those first five years. But good teachers will break their backs trying!
Reading to your young children daily is like feeding them a full meal before a long hike. You get more out of the trip with a full belly than just a quick snack!
Kids who are filled with reading experiences are energized and ready for learning when they start Kindergarten.
2. Reading builds your child’s background knowledge.
Even before a child is ready to read, they are hungry for information. Reading to children exposes them to facts and ideas that connect with other facts and ideas. As their brains develop, so do the connections between different pieces of information.
These connections create a framework of background knowledge, also called a schema in teacher language. Your child will use this framework to process new information they hear or read in the future.
Tweet: Reading to your child increases their comprehension and ability to draw conclusions.
Can you see how having those 900 hours of background knowledge gives children an important advantage as they head into school?
3. Listening to reading helps kids connect symbols to sounds and words to information.
Babies learn that sounds and language have meaning as their parents talk to them. The more we talk to them, the more language we build into their brains.
The connection between language and print is acquired as children begin to see words and hear information at the same time: listening to reading! Children start to see that words are made up of groups of letters (even if they don’t know what letters are yet). They learn that groups of words say something meaningful and fun.
As children look to books for interesting stories and information they want to know how to read. They begin to noticing print in places other than books and want to know what the letters say. They become aware that reading is a code that leads to information they will have access to if only they learn to crack the code!
4. Reading together initiates family discussions and develops strong character.
Whether your child will attend traditional school or homeschool, there are lessons that ought to be taught and modeled at home. Reading good books to your children educates them in character long before traditional schooling begins.
If for no other reason, read to your kids to let them experience good and evil safely!
Stories about characters who make good and bad choices open up natural opportunities for rich family discussions at an early age. Carefully chosen books can offer safe examples of bad choices and the consequences experienced by the characters as a result of their actions.
The magic of listening to stories is that children begin to picture themselves as the main character. Young children learn empathy and develop deeper convictions about right and wrong through the example of characters in books.
I’m relieved that my older children recovered some of the lost reading time as they grew to love books around 5th and 6th grade. The truth is learning would have been easier for them had I read to them more. I should have captured more of those reading opportunities while I had the chance.
My younger kids had it a little better. I read to them more often as I discovered the important difference it could make in their education and personal growth.
As a busy teacher-mom, I’m the first to admit that making time for daily reading is difficult. I get it! There are only so many hours during the day!
30 minutes a day.
Or 15 minutes twice a day!
The importance of reading to our children is that it can enable them to achieve more than statistics predict they will. Regardless of our financial or educational status, we have the power to give our children a better future through the simple act of reading aloud.