Do you remember asking a parent or grandparent to read you a bedtime story as a child?
We all have our favorites, many of which span a variety of cultures and generations of storytelling. But did you know that reading to your child actually assists their early brain development?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long recommended reading aloud to children, even infants! As children are learning to process the world around them, much of their development takes place within the first 2-3 years. Listening and talking are followed by reading and writing, based on sounds and vocabulary that the child has been exposed to in those early stages. Reading aloud is one of the first ways a child gets to know you—your voice, inflections, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
Although reading has generally declined in recent years, according to a government survey, the rates are even worse among lower-income families. For example, according to the study, while 60% of wealthier families read to their children daily for the first five years of their life, only 33% of low-income families could say the same. When it comes time to enter school, those who have had more reading exposure have a clear advantage, which may begin to surface by 18 months.
With the advent of readily accessible and affordable smartphones and tablets, time with books, including reading aloud, has declined. While the AAP has for quite some time discouraged screen time for children under the age of two, the organization is now encouraging reading aloud as an important substitute and developmental tool.
Fortunately, it is never too late to start reading! There are many opportunities for increasing reading time and skills. Local libraries often offer free read-aloud sessions for little ones and their parents. This is an excellent resource for those not confident in their own reading skills. Audio books are another option. However, the method most comfortable and impactful for your child is still the simplest—reading a bedtime story. Why not give it a try tonight?