It is commonly found that as children get older, their positive attitudes toward reading and their frequency of reading decline. This is concerning, as reading continues to offer many important benefits throughout the lifespan!
Read on to learn about the benefits of reading for children, and how parents can promote a love for reading at home.
What are the benefits of reading for kids?
Why should you motivate your child to read? Perhaps the most obvious benefit of reading is the development of language and literacy skills. A recent study from the Ohio State University found that young children whose parents read to them regularly enter kindergarten having heard a whopping 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to! Kids who hear more vocabulary words will be better prepared to read these words when they enter school, and are likely to pick up literacy skills more quickly and easily. Additionally, research from 2011 combined 99 studies on reading and found that frequent readers are more successful students overall – out-of-school reading facilitates academic achievement all the way up to the university/college years! Wow!
But the benefits of reading go far beyond school success. Research from Dalhousie University found that in addition to academic achievement, reading for pleasure positively influences social engagement and personal development. This is because reading can be used for everyday information seeking – when older children and adolescents read for pleasure, they gain insight into healthy relationships, personal values, and cultural identity, among many other important topics that help older readers transition into adolescence and eventual adulthood. Moreover, researchers at the University of Liverpool found that for those struggling with depression, significant improvements in their mental health occured following a 12-month reading group. In particular, the reading group helped individuals with their social well-being – feeling confident and connected to others; their mental well-being – concentrating on and feeling interested in learning; and their emotional/psychological well-being.
Ways to promote reading
It’s probably clear to you by now that reading will enhance your child’s learning and development in countless ways. But, for reading to have these positive effects, children must enjoy reading! Simply pushing your child to read is not enough. So, how can you raise children that love to read?
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh interviewed adolescents about their personal reasons for reading vs. not reading. They reported that reading books often helped them relax and learn, and was exciting, but they found it challenging to read due to lack of time, lack of encouragement, and it being expensive. Based on these findings, it’s clear that time, space, and initiatives to read for pleasure are very important.
- Make sure you read both to and with your child. One way to do this is to take turns reading aloud to each other.
- Use poems, songs and rhymes to help tell stories. Repetition can help young children learn sounds and words, and of course, can make storytelling lots of fun!
- Give your child some control over their reading. It’s important to guide your child’s reading, but still support their decisions on when and how long they would like to read. Make sure to have different lengths and genres of books available to them.
- Visit your local library, and grow your own library at home. In other words, always have books on hand!
- Explore different reading methods. For example, there are interactive reading apps that may help struggling readers.
- Don’t save books for bedtime. Encourage reading everywhere, like while waiting for the school bus, and during free time on the weekend.
- Create a designated reading space in your home. This space should be quiet, comfortable, and have books closely available.
- Limit screen time. Encourage your child to put down the screens, and pick up a book!
- Make connections between reading and real life. One way to do this is by talking with older readers about how the themes and messages in their books can connect to their own lives. This will help demonstrate the importance of reading.
- Keep track of your child’s reading. Research has shown that many children are motivated by keeping track of their progress. For example, recording their progress in a journal, or on a sticker chart.
- Be a good role model. Show your child that reading is a fun and meaningful activity for you too!
Remember: reading should be fun!