The Benefits of Reading to Children

Family reading together to kids

For many kids, school shutdowns during the pandemic led to learning loss. 

A study conducted by global management firm McKinsey & Company noted,  “Our analysis shows that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year. 

In the United States, federal funds have been allocated to support school districts in addressing this learning loss. Schools are using these funds to offer increased opportunities for tutoring and summer classes to support students.

But in addition to school support there are opportunities at home for parents to play a primary role in helping children move forward with reading skills, both before and after a child learns to read.

At home, reading out loud together can encourage a love of reading – and learning. For young children, enjoying a book with a parent or caregiver sets an example that books are fun, interesting, and a delightful shared experience. 

Says Jim Trelease, author of the best-seller, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” on the website readaloud.org, “Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain. You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure.”

Research shows that reading aloud to a child is the single most important thing you can do to help prepare them for reading and learning. Just 15 minutes a day supports brain development, language development, and literacy skill building.

Not only does reading pave the way for becoming a better reader, it also fosters bonding and family connection. 

How to make reading together fun for everyone

Make time to read together part of your regular routine. Some families include reading aloud as part of the ‘winding down’ routine before bedtime.

Whenever you choose to read to your children, find a comfortable place to sit together with a book. Choose a time when there are no distractions so the two of you can slow down, enjoy the story and the pictures, and take some time to reflect on what you’re reading.

It’s always a good idea to skim through the books you are considering for read aloud time. This gives you an opportunity to make sure the subject matter is appropriate to the age of the child and get a sense of the rhythm of the text. 

With a sense of the story and the rhythm, you have the opportunity to incorporate your own style when reading. You might choose to use different voices for the various characters in the story. Or maybe you will get a sense of where it is appropriate to stop and invite comments or questions.

And don’t feel like you need to finish every book you start. If your child loses interest, it’s ok to stop reading and put the book away. You can continue reading another day, or you might decide it’s better saved for a time in the future when the child is older. It’s even ok to decide the book is not for you and not continue at all. 

However you decide to make reading a part of your family’s routine, just 15 minutes a day can make a big difference in your child’s reading readiness. 

For more check out these tips for reading aloud, courtesy of the New York Public Library.