The Benefits of Reading Out Loud to Your Child
When I was little, I remember my mom reading to me. The memories are still very vivid. I had a few favorite books; The Rainbow Fish was one, and I Have Rocks in My Sox Said the Ox to the Fox, was another. I loved the book Stellaluna, about a fruit bat, so much that I made my mom read it to me over and over again. One day I told my mom that I would read the book. She was surprised, seeing as how I had only begun learning to read. I proceeded to hold the book and flip through the pages, telling the story. My mom copped on quick. I was telling the story more or less correctly, but the words I was saying didn't quite match up with the words on the page. I had simply remembered the story and I was repeating what I remembered, like a parrot. My mom made me slow down and sound out each word individually.
From a young age, words held a kind of magic for me. My mom read to me often and I was always fascinated that she could derive meaning from the incomprehensible squiggles on the page. I wanted that power too, so badly that I thought I could fake it just to jump ahead.
I'm so lucky that my mom, who is actually the designer for Tesa Babe, read to me when I was little. I have a passion for reading that is due in no small part to being read to often. And as a writer, I believe that it was these early reading sessions that unlocked the magic of storytelling for me.
This, by the way, is actually supported by scientific data. Brain scans show that listening to stories strengthens the part of the brain associated with story comprehension, visual imagery, and word meaning. What's more, a study published in 2019 indicates that reading to kids younger than five years old boosts brain development. MRI images taken in the study show an increase in organized white matter in the brains of children in the study who were read to often. This white matter is involved in developing language and the ability to learn.
There are dozens of studies on how reading to your child increases their cognitive functions, but there are other benefits to reading out loud to your children as well. Reading together forges a bond between parent and child. No matter what has happened during the day - if you were stressed out or if your child was being fussy - at the end of the day there's a special time to cuddle up and read a story together. It helps children feel safe and loved in the world.
Setting a specific reading time in the evening also promotes a healthy bedtime routine - get the pajamas on, brush the teeth, and jump into bed where mom or dad will read a bedtime story. This helps children wind down and get cozy right before it's time to sleep.
Children's books also communicate important messages in a fun way, and help parents and children communicate with each other. One of my favorite books that my mom read to me as a child, The Rainbow Fish, talks about a beautiful fish with rainbow and silver scales. When one of his little fish friends, a plain blue one, asks him if he could have one of the beautiful shiny scales, the Rainbow Fish very rudely refuses. Word gets around and soon the selfish Rainbow Fish has no friends. By the end of the story, the Rainbow Fish realizes that the key to happiness is to share so that everyone is happy. Another story, Glad Monster, Sad Monster, talks about different monsters with different feelings. It's a great book to read to your little one who might have had a bad day. Going over all the ranges of emotions that these monsters have makes it easier for children to communicate their feelings in a way they can understand.
And remember, your kiddos won't be little forever! Take this time now to get all the cuddles and stories in that you can. If nothing else, you'll always have the wonderful memories of reading together.