Reading to kids boosts development and social skills
Reading to kids, even from the newborn age, helps kids develop the scaffold of language and speech. This leads to improved school readiness with increased interested in reading, and improving quality of life. Life is good as a kid when you can express what you want (and don’t want) to your family and teachers. Being able to communicate effectively and being able to read well also boosts kids’ confidence and leads to more achievements. When parents interactively read (find out how below), their kids also have improved social skills. This may be due to exposure to empathy when the kids learn about emotions in various characters in books and hear their parents mimic emotions in their voices and facial expressions. Reading outloud more often with parents also leads to decreased hyperactivity and behavioral problems in kids (AL Mendelssohn et al, Pediatrics, 2018). These lasting effects on brain development are also seen in brain imaging. Kids who are read to have changes in the activity and blood flow in their brains when compared to those just listening to background noise (JS Hutton et al, Pediatrics, 2015). Reading from a young age seems to be the key to unlocking your child’s potential! Read on to find out what it can do for you!
Please subscribe to this website. Since I am a full time pediatrician, educator, mom of two, a non-profit cofounder – and practitioner of embracing life imperfections – this blog may go 1-2 months without a new post. Subscribing will get you notifications when new information is published.
Reading to kids improves parents’ stress levels!
Okay, so maybe the above benefits of reading for kids were not shocking, but did you know that reading to kids can lower parents’ stress levels and boost confidence in parenting (Q Xie et al, Pediatrics, 2018)? In an age where Pinterest and Facebook seem to judge parents whether working or stay at home or work from home, feeling great about child rearing and parenting decisions is a welcome change! Who doesn’t want feel like a parenting rockstar every once in a while? Even when laundry and dishes are overdue, even when meal prep fiascos flare up, and even when boo boos abound – maybe ER-bound for a laceration repair, we can still take 5 minutes to read a book to our kids. During that time, the chaos pauses, the clutter temporarily disappears, as all that’s heard and seen are smiles, giggles, and silly faces and voices. For a few minutes, we have control and we have a good time with our kids, and that’s all that matters in the universe. It’s so easy, no class required, no travel required, no expensive product required (and read more here on I help parents save $MONEY$). This doesn’t even require a lot of books since kids love the same books over and over and over again. Also, please take advantage of our amazing public library system to borrow books for free! So let’s put down our phones (hello millennial parents – myself included!), read to our kids, and start feeling empowered today! Check out some tips below and watch my Betamomma Book Break Youtube channel on how to read more effectively and be more engaging when reading to kids.
How to read to babies and kids
In order for reading books to be most beneficial for parents and kids, parents need to read INTERACTIVELY. Not just read the words, but read with silly voices, read with silly motions and exaggerated emotions, read with asking questions (what do you think happens next, why do you think he feels sad?), read with breaks to talk about the pictures and to point to the pictures, spy for colors, count objects, read with imagination and creativity. Experiment. I may or may not have read the same book in various accents (British and Southern) to my kids. Any way you try, you can’t fail more than my husband who, rather than reading to my kids as I had asked, made a ramp for cars from the stack of books. If you would like more tips and ideas, check out the video above as I demonstrate how to interactively read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Also take a look at other videos on my youtube channel Betamomma Book Break. Note that reading interactively doesn’t mean that the kids’ attention is always on the parent. Newborns don’t really understand language yet, so parents are really reading “AT” them, rather than “TO” them. Toddlers move around a lot, so again, parents are reading “AT” them as they dump out their toys and feed their animals and bump into coffee tables and everything except sitting nicely on your lap. Exposure to the interactive reading is really what matters most, rather than obedient and unwavering receipt of the reading efforts. Not all kids will listen and interact to reading the same. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns about how your child is reacting to reading books and acting during play time.
How interactive reading helps parents
Because interactive reading techniques and the people who use them are so varied, it’s hard to hone in on the exact mechanism by which interactive reading benefits parents’ well being. A few theories I present here. First, remember that kids want the same book read repeatedly over hours, days, weeks, and months. Maybe years. Reading a book in various voices, motions, and perspectives can make the book a bit more interesting to the parents and juuuussst maybe help them keep their sanity as they read the book for thousandth time. Also, reading in a more engaging manner is not just about telling the kids a story, but creating a positive interaction between the parent and child. These moments and lasting memories can be created anytime, anywhere, even without the book (yes, I have read books like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt enough times that I can recite them) – in line at the grocery store, waiting for food at the restaurant, or in the car on a longer commute, perhaps making mundane tasks seems a bit more lively and joyful for parents and kids. Finally, as parents, we sometimes feel a lack of control over our kids’ behaviors, our job security, our own parents’ or grandparents’ health, or our own emotions. Reading books with our kids, however, is very practical and accessible to almost all parents and gives us back that sense of control, and that can boost our confidence to succeed in other areas of parenting, such as controlling screen time, serving healthy meals, and taking time to care for ourselves.
How to choose books for children
I like to multitask, and I gravitate towards products that multitask too. Choose a book that is multifunctional too. Books that are already active such as Tickle Time and Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? don’t take too much imagination to make up motions that complement reading the book. Books that encourage healthy habits such as helping others, eating veggies, and sharing can lead to some very brief teachable moments. Books that show a kid learning a desired behavior like potty training (Elmo Goes Potty, A Potty For Me as read here on YouTube) and being nice to their new sibling can be helpful for kids to visualize another character going through the same lessons. Grouping books together in themes can also help kids establish a pattern and learn about a topic more deeply as they look at it from various perspectives. When I wanted to help my 3 year old get better at recognizing alphabet letters, I picked out a couple board books at the library that went through all the letters so that we could review them in various fonts and compare the words chosen for each letter in the different books. If you are not sure where to start, browse in the children’s book section at Target, TJ Maxx, Barnes and Noble, or at the public library. It’s like looking for hidden treasure, you’ll know you found the right book when it’s glimmer catches your eye. Or, ask the librarian for some help. You got this!
Summary on interactively reading with babies and kids
- Silly voices
- Exaggerated emotions
- Talk about the characters’ feelings
- Asking questions
- Point to the pictures
- Count objects
- Find colors
This page contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on them and purchase something from the website, pennies might be credited to me at no cost to you. It’s a small way to earn some money to cover the cost of maintaining this website, which I operate myself and on my own time – and a lot of time (about 5 hours per post) goes into finding proper, easily digestible, evidence-based resources and ideas to share. I would really appreciate the clicks! Thank you!
Please pin, tweet, or share via Facebook if you think other parents might find this post useful.