- Parents reading aloud to children improves the quality of their relationships, research shows
- Many parents stop reading to their kids once they are able to read themselves, even when the kids don't want to stop
When she was a toddler, we began a nearly daily ritual called Milk & Books. It quickly became the best part of any ordinary day as we devoured picture and chapter books that ranged from hilarious Shel Silverstein poetry to the dramatic prairie recollections of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some titles came from authors prevalent in our own childhoods (E.B. White, Roald Dahl, Virginia Lee Burton, Dr. Seuss, Kay Thompson), and more came from the ever-growing list of contemporary greats (Mo Willems, Jon Muth, Kate DiCamillo, Andrew Clements).
When our daughter declared that she'd outgrown our family ritual, I suspected that a classmate made her self-conscious about it, perhaps one whose parents had done away with reading books to them. But I didn't ask her why she wanted to stop or reveal my sadness. She loves reading, so maybe our work was done, I thought. And I consoled myself with the notion that I had years of happy memories with her and more good years of M&B left with her little sister.
Two weeks after stopping our bedtime readings, though, my older daughter asked whether we could start again. She simply enjoyed the ritual too much to let it go yet. As she later explained, "Everyone likes to be read to, even adults." We've continued uninterrupted since. Right now, we're deep into Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass."
The value of reading to our kids -- for them and us -- is reinforced by the growing body of research on the topic. Just last week, a meta-analysis of 19 studies published in the journal Pediatrics found that reading aloud was significantly beneficial to children and their parents
In most of the studies -- which involved more than 3,000 families -- the parents were assessed as well as their kids, and reading aloud appeared to strengthen parents' feelings of competence, improve the quality of their relationships with their children and even reduce parental stress or depression.
Reading aloud to children improves a young mind's cognitive development
(thinking, problem-solving, decision-making) and reduces behavior problems, research shows. As with playing board games, reading to them increases concentration and attention spans. Reading aloud even outperforms conversation when it comes to exposure to vocabulary and advancing a child's literacy.
And yet, too many of us stop before the kids want us to. In Australia, more than a third of children aged 6 to 11 whose parents had stopped reading to them wanted to continue
Improving a child's reading skills and cognitive ability is important to their success in school, work and life. "If you are going to get anywhere in life," Roald Dahl is credited with saying, "you have to read a lot of books."
The conversations children have around themes and ideas in books help them make sense of the world. And it's a joyful way to connect and be close with your kid. While reading in bed, my daughters and I lie next to each other, sometimes leaning into one other. We laugh and are surprised together and have deep conversations sparked by the novels. It's as high a quality as quality time gets.